Around 440 Migrants Rescued from Boat off Malta

Wed Apr 05 2023
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ROME: Around 440 migrants, including women and children, have been rescued from a boat off Malta after an 11-hour-long operation in stormy weather, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) – a France-based humanitarian organisation – said Wednesday after its ship responded to a distress signal.

“After more than 11 hours of operation, the rescue is now over and a total of 440 people, including 8 women and 30 children, are now safely aboard GeoBarents and being cared for by the team,” the charity tweeted.

The Geo Barents, MSF’s rescue ship, received the distress alert as it was headed to shelter in the Mediterranean amid bad weather, the France-based NGO tweeted. It finally came across the migrants boat at 4:00 am Tuesday after navigating in the storm for more than 10 hours, MSF said.

“Unfortunately, the weather did not allow our team to directly perform the rescue, which could have endangered the lives of the people and those of the MSF team,” the charity said.

Speed boats

The Geo Barents was finally able to launch its speed boats to the vessel carrying migrants by early afternoon, MSF tweeted along with photos showing the deck of the boat packed with people wearing life jackets.

Italian authorities had detained the Geo Barents in February for allegedly breaking new government rules on rescue missions in the Mediterranean.

MSF said it had been accused of failing to share information, including that of the voyage data recorder on the ship’s position and movement.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni took office in October after promising to limit the number of migrants landing in the country.

As per the new law, charity ships can only perform a single rescue at a time.

Critics say it has increased the risk of casualties in the central Mediterranean, which is the most perilous crossing in the world.

Owing to its geographical position, asylum seekers crossing from North Africa to Europe view Italy as a prime destination, with Rome complaining about the number of arrivals since long.

Charities only rescue a minor percentage of those brought ashore while most migrants are saved by coast guard or naval vessels.

But the Italian government has accused charity ships of acting as a pull factor and encouraging human traffickers. — AFP

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