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Malta allows Libyan Coastguard to intercept a migrant boat within its own search and rescue zone

ACTIVISTS accused the Maltese maritime authorities of violating international refugee laws in two separate events in the Mediterranean this weekend.   

The first incident happened on Friday afternoon after Alarm Phone, a network which provides support for people crossing the Mediterranean to Europe, alerted the Maltese Armed Forces of a migrant boat in distress within its search and rescue (SAR) zone. 

Alarm Phone says its repeated calls to Malta on Friday evening were ignored. 

“The migrants have been at sea for 17 hours,” the group tweeted on Friday evening. 

“They are urgently asking for help. Our last contact with them was at 17.00 CEST, when they said [their] boat [was] leaking. It’s getting dark … and we still do not know if Malta is organising a rescue.”

Later that evening, Alarm Phone tweeted: “At 21:32 CEST we talked to [Malta’s rescue co-ordination centre] who told us that the Libyan Coastguard had intercepted the boat from Malta’s SAR … a clear violation of international law.

“Malta delegated the operation to an EU-financed militia, [which] is [taking] people to a war zone. Malta is fully responsible for this violation of international conventions.”

Then on Saturday morning another boat, this time with 45 people on board including several pregnant women and children, contacted Alarm Phone, who once again tried to contact Malta but were repeatedly ignored. 

Fortunately, the boat made it to the Italian island of Lampedusa. 

“We sent the GPS position to the authorities four times, informing them of the urgent distress, including the serious condition of pregnant women and children,” Alarm Phone said. 

“While we are relieved, we condemn these EU politics of non-assistance. The bodies of the last shipwreck off Lampedusa are still being searched for. 

“Europe, how many lives do you want to take before creating a safe passage?”

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