uesday, 27th October 2009

Libya makes arrests as migrants are taken to Italy

Cynthia Busuttil

Two men suspected of having organised the crossing of 207 migrants, including 30 children, from Libya, were arrested by Libyan police yesterday as the migrants were escorted to Italy.

According to Italian media, the two arrested were a 26-year-old Eritrean, who was found in possession of a false Sudanese passport, and the Libyan owner of the wooden fishing boat on which the migrants were travelling.

The boat's owner had reported the vessel missing about 10 days ago and it was identified through a photo taken from a helicopter.

The migrants, who were found adrift some 70 miles north of Benghazi on Saturday, were escorted into Italy's search and rescue area by an Italian tanker under the watchful eye of an Armed Forces of Malta patrol boat. It was met by an Italian tug boat which yesterday evening accompanied the migrants to Pozzallo in Sicily.

A Libyan warship, which was reported to have been on the way to pick up the migrants on Sunday evening, never actually showed up.

The alarm was raised on Friday when one of the migrants on board the fishing vessel called a relative in Italy, who in turn informed the Italian authorities and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees about the migrants' whereabouts.

The rescue operation was taken over by Rome's SRR Centre, which instructed the Italian-registered tanker Antignano to intercept the boat, the AFM said.

However, the weather conditions and the tanker's size made it impossible to transfer the migrants on to the Antignano, which continued to provide shelter for the fishing boat.

Sources close to operation said once the tanker intercepted the migrants' boat, it was instructed by Rome's SRR Centre to continue shadowing it as it proceeded steadily northwards into Malta's search and rescue area, even though the closest port of call was in Libya. The boat was still some 250 nautical miles southeast of Malta when the alarm was raised.

When the two vessels entered Malta's search and rescue region, the AFM's patrol boat was dispatched to monitor the operation but the migrants refused rescue. This was corroborated by Antignano captain Mariano Adragna who told Italian media the migrants wanted to reach Italy.

"The migrants refused to go on the Maltese patrol boat. They did not want Malta's help but wanted to reach Italy," Captain Adragna told L'Occidentale.

Two boats with doctors on board, which left Italy on Sunday, were unable to reach the fishing boat because of the bad weather.

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Libya makes arrests as migrants are taken to Italy

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Charles Sammut (1 hour, 11 minutes ago)
If you want the Libyan warship to show up, spread the rumour that Enemalta is drilling for oil in the area.
c. camilleri (5 hours, 20 minutes ago)
It seems that these people are being well organised and now they have become choosey too. Is it possible that European Govts are not aware of what is in store for Europe if this trend continues. Is it possible that they cannot foresee what will happen when millions in Europe start claiming their right or wrongs and no one will be able to stop them? Wake Europe from your slamper
louise vella (8 hours, 54 minutes ago)
"one of the migrants on board the fishing vessel called a relative in Italy, who in turn informed the Italian authorities and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees about the migrants' whereabouts."

Next time the migrants should call their relatives while they are still in Libya. Then the relatives will inform the Italian authorities and UNHCR and Italy will send a plane or two to Libya to pick up the migrants and take them to Italy where they will join their relatives. And then again and again and again until all of Eritrea's 5 million population and all of Somalia's 9 million people will be given refugee status by Italy. That way they will all live happily ever after.
Sandro Pace (9 hours ago)
In this case, our government acted correctly, and did not succumb to any diplomatic or emotive pressures.

Keep it up.

Trudy Attard (9 hours, 24 minutes ago)
so now the immigrants choose where to land???????
John Azzopardi (10 hours, 34 minutes ago)
Gonzi is playing with our national interest. His goal is to detract maltese society attention to his failure of handling the economic situation and throw the spotlight on illegal immigrants. Of course, if there was an election, it would be the other way around. On the other hand, I have no faith in the PL as well.
lgalea (12 hours, 33 minutes ago)
If there was the tanker, why did the Maltese authorities ask the illegal immigrats whether they wanted to be saved and obviously brought to Malta when they could have been saved by the tanker and taken elsewhere as they were in Libyan waters when they made their call?

When is the spineless Gonzi going to put the Maltese peoples interests who elected him to protect them and their interests first instead of protecting the interests of illegal immigrats who have absolutely NO right to be or to be brought here?