The Malta Independent 14 April 2021, Wednesday

Migrants ‘safely reached Italian territory’, AFM says, rejecting notions that boat was adrift

Tuesday, 6 April 2021, 17:15 Last update: about 7 days ago

The over 100 migrants who, according to NGOs, were in distress in the Mediterranean have reached Italian shores safely, the Armed Forces of Malta said, as they rejected notions that the boat was left adrift.

Referring to recent reports by NGOs that a boat had been left adrift by Maltese authorities, the AFM said that this was not the case.

A group of 39 NGOs on Tuesday morning expressed their worry over the fate of the migrants.


“Search and Rescue operations are coordinated in accordance with the applicable international conventions, regulations and through the competent authority. It is additionally clarified that not every migrant boat on the high seas amounts automatically to a case of distress”, they said.

The AFM said that there are various instances where migrant boats in international waters do not require assistance and express intent to proceed autonomously to their intended destination.

Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) Malta closely monitors all cases, they said in a statement.

“Contrary to allegations in the local media on this particular case, the migrants on board repeatedly reiterated their intention to continue proceeding towards their intended destination. Indeed, this particular boat, and others, reached safely their intended destination, and on their own steam”, the AFM said, referring to allegations that the boat had been left adrift.

Nevertheless, they said, as with all cases, the competent authorities exercised the duty of care – attaching an image (top of article) which they said was taken moments prior to the boat’s entry in Italian territory.

The boat seen in the image, which they said was powered by two outboard engines and was on a steady course and speed, is the same boat being portrayed by some media outlets as adrift at sea.

Illegal border crossings involving migrants who transit through Malta’s Search and Rescue Region/international waters to reach Italy are not uncommon, they said.

“Therefore, allegations of boats sinking, left adrift, or rescues being hindered are false and unfounded. While some NGOs have lost sight of the boat, it is evident that this was not the case for local authorities who maintained the duty of care. “, the AFM said.

The Armed Forces of Malta said that it regrets to note that this is not the first instance where some NGOs divulge false and incorrect information, which not only raise undue concerns among the general public but also divert national resources from other cases which are actually in real distress.

NGOs welcome news of rescue, but stress importance of information sharing

The group of NGOs who had written earlier in the day reacted to the AFM statement, saying that "it is with great relief that we welcome news of the safe disembarkation in Italy of the 110 persons assumed to have been stranded. We thank the Italian authorities for allowing their disembarkation and for providing them with shelter and safety. We also appreciate the statement issued by the Armed Forces of Malta, confirming that the AFM had been closely monitoring this boat for some time."

"This incident further confirms our earlier statement on the crucial importance of sharing information in an open and transparent manner. It is in the interests of safety of lives, transparency and accountability that we stressed - and continue to stress - the need for the competent authorities to refrain from withholding information relating to search and rescue activities. In the absence of such disclosure, particularly following requests to the appropriate channels, it is inevitable for us to become concerned for the fate of persons who we believe to be missing, pushed-back or drowned."

"We therefore reiterate our appeal to Malta to openly provide information on its search and rescue activities. It is only in such a spirit of transparency that mutual cooperation towards ensuring safety of lives at sea may be secured," the NGOs said.

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