97 migrants were rescued in the Maltese search and rescue area and are now seeking a port of safety in Europe, the NGO Alarm Phone said on Saturday.
In a tweet on Saturday afternoon, Alarm Phone – which is an NGO which operates to provide support to people crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe – said that a boat of around 90 people had put in a distress call after fleeing from Libya.
They said that the boat was in Malta’s search and rescue area, and that they had informed Maltese authorities, but their calls were either not picked up or were hung up immediately.
In a separate tweet two hours later, Alarm Phone said that the boat had been rescued with 97 people onboard by the NGO Open Arms.
🆘️ 90 people in distress in #Malta SAR!
Tonight we have been alerted by 90 people who fled from #Libya towards #Europe. We informed authorities about the emergency in the Maltese SAR, but RCC Malta either doesn’t pick up or hangs up our calls immediately.
— Alarm Phone (@alarm_phone) January 2, 2021
They said that the Armed Forces of Malta had continued to refuse to respond to distress calls, and added that Open Arms no needs a port of safety in Europe.
It is the first migratory situation that Malta will have to deal with in 2021; a continuation of the migration crisis which dominated the Mediterranean in the past decade or so.
Prime Minister Robert Abela has continually insisted that Malta cannot take any more migrants, although he has always said that Malta will carry out rescues when there is material risk to human lives at sea.
This has been the topic of much negotiations between Malta and Libya in the past year, with two migration coordination centres being set up in Valletta and Tripoli respectively over the last summer.
Last November, Malta, Greece, Italy, and Spain renewed calls for a revamp to the EU’s aslyum system, expressing concern that proposals for reform will still leave them isolated, and calling for mandatory quotas for sharing out people who qualify for refugee status among all 27 EU countries instead.
Photo: File photo from last July