114 migrants were rescued by an AFM patrol boat and brought to Malta.
In a statement, the Armed Forces of Malta said the rubber dinghy was spotted during a routine border patrol.
The boat was at the time 53 nautical miles south of Malta. The dinghy was taking in water but all migrants on board were rescued and taken on board the P23 patrol vessel.
The AFM vessel arrived at the Maritime Squadron’s Haywharf base at around 4.45pm.
The migrants were loaded up onto police vans and taken for processing.
The rescue came as a new migrant dispute was developing, with the migrant rescue vessel Aquarius saying that both Malta and Italy had refused to allow it into their ports. The vessel is carrying 144 migrants that were rescued off the coast of Libya. The ship anchored off the coast of Malta and said it was awaiting instructions.
In a statement the Maltese government said the rescue made by the Aquarius took place off the Libyan coast, closer to Libya, Tunisia and Italy (Lampedusa) in an operation which was coordinated by the Libyan authorities.
“Malta was neither the coordinating nor the competent authority for such a rescue, and therefore has no legal obligation to make the arrangements to provide for a place of safety. The requests for such vessel to enter ports are unwarranted and without legal standing,” the government said, adding that it was monitoring the situation and staying in touch with other authorities.
Italian Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted that the Aquarius was German-owned and operated by a French NGO. The ship, he said, had a foreign crew and was now in Maltese waters, flying a Gibraltar flag. “The shop can go wherever it wants but not in Italy. No more to human trafficking and their accomplices,” he said.
Photos Alenka Falzon
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