Five dead people were found on a boat in Maltese waters and the other migrants will be returned to Libya, the International Organisation of Migration has said.
The IOM, an intergovernmental organisation affiliated with the United Nations, said an estimated 47 migrants were rescued by a commercial ship in Malta’s search and rescue zone and handed over to the Libyan coast guard.
????Breaking: Approximately 47 migrants, intercepted last night remained on the coast guard vessel near Tripoli awaiting a confirmation on disembarkation.
Five bodies were also retrieved.
The migrants just got confirmation to disembark in Tripoli.
— IOM Libya (@IOM_Libya) April 15, 2020
It added that five bodies were retrieved from the boat.
????53 people were returned to Libya. 5 of them are dead. They were illegally abducted in Malta SAR zone & Malta is responsible for these deaths and for returning the survivors to war, rape and torture. We are still verifying if it is the boat with ~55 people that was missing. https://t.co/s9xYbf3Htg
— Alarm Phone (@alarm_phone) April 15, 2020
Alarm Phone, an emergency hotline for migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea, said the retrieval of the people by the Libyan coast guard amounts to illegal abduction.
“Malta is responsible for these deaths and for returning the survivors to war, rape and torture,” it said.
Malta and Italy both recently declared their ports unsafe for migrant arrivals in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, while Libya’s UN-recognised government in Tripoli also declared its ports unsafe due to the ongoing civil war in the country.
Malta has urged the EU to send a humanitarian mission to Libya, including €100 million worth of food and medical supplies, in order to improve the situation in the war-torn North African country and to alleviate the pressure of irregular migrants off Europe.
Cover photo: (Flickr) Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet