The Malta Independent 27 September 2023, Wednesday
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Seven bodies picked out of Maltese waters in last nine months still unidentified

Albert Galea Sunday, 19 March 2023, 08:00 Last update: about 7 months ago

Seven bodies, which were found at sea and picked up by Maltese authorities in the last nine months, are all still unidentified, The Malta Independent on Sunday is informed.

Since the turn of the year, a spate of dead bodies have been spotted around various parts of Malta and Gozo and subsequently been picked up by local authorities.

Indeed, since 28 June 2022, a total of seven bodies were found at sea and brought ashore in Malta.

The body found on 28 June last year was stumbled upon by divers on the seabed close to the popular diving spot at Fra Ben in Qawra.

Two bodies were found on 27 October last year: one near Marsalforn in Gozo and one some 15 nautical miles off the coast in the area known as Hurd’s Bank.

The first body to be found at sea this year was on 25 January, when a body was spotted in the sea of Wied il-Mielah in Gharb, while another body was found a month later on 27 February around three nautical miles off the coast of Marsascala.

Two more bodies have been found at sea so far this month: one on 7 March at Gnejna Bay and another on 15 March that was spotted early in the morning in an area known as il-Foss tal-Belt in Valletta.

In each of these cases, nothing beyond a short statement from the Malta Police Force announcing the find has been publicly discerned. 

In six out of the seven cases, the police said in their initial statement that the body was in an advanced state of decomposition. The only case where this wasn’t mentioned was in the case of the body which was found in Qawra in June 2022.

A spokesperson for the police force shed some light on the bodies when asked by The Malta Independent, stating that four of them – the bodies found in Qawra, near Hurd’s Bank, near Wied il-Mielah and in Valletta this week – were men and that another two – the bodies found near Marsalforn and in Gnejna Bay – were women.

The gender of the body of the person found three nautical miles off Marsascala is yet to be determined, the spokesperson said.

“Unfortunately, none of the victims have so far been identified,” the spokesperson said.

The Malta Independent on Sunday also asked police whether the deaths were being treated as suspicious and whether the police had found any patterns or theories which could explain how the victims died.

However, the spokesperson said that in all seven cases both police investigations and the respective magisterial inquiries are still ongoing and that they therefore “cannot divulge further information at this stage”.

The same answer held when the police were asked whether they believed that the bodies may belong to migrants who perished while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the Missing Migrants Project, the Central Mediterranean is the deadliest known migration route in the world, with more than 17,000 deaths and disappearances recorded since 2014.

This is due both to the length of the overseas journey, which can take days, as well as increasingly dangerous smuggling patterns, gaps in search-and-rescue capacity and restrictions on the life-saving work of NGOs, the project said.

Migrants often cross the Central Mediterranean in unseaworthy, overloaded inflatable boats. Multiple boats may also be launched at the same time, which complicates search and rescue efforts significantly, it added.

“The Central Mediterranean is also the route where the most disappearances have occurred, though it is likely that many more deaths remain unrecorded. MMP data since 2014 suggests that the remains of more than 12,000 people have been lost at sea on this route,” the project writes on its website.

“There is also strong evidence that many shipwrecks are ‘invisible’ – boats in distress disappear with no survivors – that therefore go unrecorded. For example, MMP has recorded hundreds of human remains found on Libyan shores that are not linked to any known shipwreck,” it adds.

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