An abandoned rubber boat found at sea between Malta and Libya over the weekend is not believed to be the result of a tragic shipwreck, the EU’s external borders agency said on Monday.
Frontex told Times of Malta that the deflated remains of a dinghy, which its pilots had spotted in the Libyan search and rescue area on Sunday, was likely to have been left behind from a previous rescue mission.
The conclusion echoes what Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo said on Monday morning. Writing on Facebook, Bartolo had said that the remains spotted were those of a "derelict dinghy".
Frontex said the deflated boat "did not have an engine and there was no sign of people on the boat or nearby".
"This information was immediately passed to all relevant MRCC (Italy, Malta, Libya and Tunis). MRCC Rome later confirmed that this boat correlated with an old incident, where the migrants were rescued and the rubber boat was left adrift empty."
Rescue NGO Sea-Watch had first raised the alarm of a possible shipwreck this weekend, tweeting that a number of migrants were feared drowned after a capsized boat was discovered at sea.
Bartolo had disputed the claims with a post on Facebook on Monday morning.
The situation at sea in the southern Mediterranean has become increasingly fraught after both Malta and Italy closed their ports to migrant rescues last week.
Frontex was on Monday engaged in a separate mission to track down a boat carrying migrants which went missing over the weekend. Frontex pilots had spotted four such boats in the central Mediterranean between Friday and Saturday, but could only account for three when scanning the area on Sunday.