A group of Maltese boaters in the middle of a trip in the central Mediterranean ended up providing humanitarian aid after coming across migrants at sea last week. 

The Maltese group had been making their way from Tunisian waters towards Lampedusa on a small sailing catamaran when they noticed something floating in the distance at around dusk on Friday evening. 

As they moved closer, they found a green rubber dinghy packed with people, bobbing up and down with the waves. 

Ryan, one of the people who was on board the Maltese boat, said that they estimated there were some 70 people on the dinghy. 

“We had been hearing a lot of activity on the radio since the morning, with other boats signalling that there are migrants in distress,” he said. 

The group could not find it in their conscience to simply sail by and leave the migrants alone, Ryan continued. 

“Of course, we had to help them out, they looked in distress, they had no water and the dinghy was overcrowded,” he said. 

“We couldn’t get too close because of our own safety, but we helped as much as we could.” 

The crew handed over bottled water and loaves of bread and repeatedly tried to get in touch with Italian authorities, but it did not appear that help would be on the way any time soon. 

“The Italian authorities in Lampedusa were overwhelmed because there were a lot of boat crossings,” Ryan continued.

“We kept an eye on the migrants' dinghy, so we slowed down and they were sort of following us towards Lampedusa until night started creeping in.” 

“When we lost sight of them at around 9.45 pm on Friday, we radioed the authorities again and gave them our exact coordinates. We only received a reply a few hours later and were left to assume that a search and rescue happened the next morning.”

Ryan said that the experience was somewhat eye-opening and he hoped that the reality of the Mediterranean would inspire more sympathy. 

“Obviously, there’s no simple solution to the illegal immigration problems, but we need to stop dehumanizing these migrants and realize that they are souls like us looking for a chance at a better life,” he said. 

Clive Tanti, the captain of the chartered vessel, added that as the night fell on them and the waves got choppier, panic started to visibly creep up on the occupants of the dinghy. 

“The rough sea created a panic among them and at some point they tried to board my yacht at around 8 pm,” he told Times of Malta. 

“After that, I had to keep a longer distance, as the safety of my crew is my utmost priority. We kept calling the Italian authorities who told us they were on to the case, but they were too busy.”

“We kept looking back at them and flashing our torches to make sure they were still behind us, but as it got darker the situation got trickier and we later lost sight of them.”

According to Sea-Watch, who photographed the Maltese vessel aiding the people on board the dinghy on Friday, the Malta Rescue Coordination Centre and three merchant ships declined to provide aid. 

A spokesperson for Sea-Watch said that the group on board the dinghy was eventually rescued by the Italian coast guard just south of Lampedusa. 

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