On April 3, Alarm Phone reported the presence of three boats in the Maltese Search and Rescue regions. The people on two of the boats were rescued and taken to Lampedusa. An estimated 110 people on the third boat appear to still be unaccounted for, what has happened?
Several days after three boats were spotted in the Central Mediterranean and those on board two of them were rescued and taken to Lampedusa, questions remain about an estimated 110 people that appear to have been on board a third boat.
Two of the boats spotted, carrying about 160 people in total are confirmed to be safely on Lampedusa, reported Alarm Phone. But the last one appears still to be missing. The organization tweeted a picture of what looked like a small blue single-deck wooden boat accompanied by this text in Italian.
"Where are they? We don’t know anything about what might have happened to about 110 people between Malta and Lampedusa. According to the Moonbird [rescue surveillance plane], the Maltese Armed Forces came close to the small vessel and then ordered the merchant ship the Nordic Star to leave the area. But the people don’t appear to have arrived in Malta. What happened to them?"
On April 5, more organizations are asking questions but no concrete news of the possible whereabouts of the people on the boat seems to have been released. On April 4, the Times of Malta reported that Alarm Phone was "accusing the Armed Forces of Malta of ordering a rescue vessel to leave the scene of the drifting boat the migrants were in."
Not yet been rescued
Times of Malta, also reported that a Seawatch International spokesperson had confirmed that at that point the third boat had "not yet been rescued." Sea Watch said that the captain of the Nordic Star, which Alarm Phone says was asked to leave by the Maltese Armed Forces had agreed to rescue the estimated 110 people on board the blue boat.
"Efforts to contact the Armed Forces of Malta proved futile," reported the Times of Malta. Alarm Phone also said on Sunday that it had lost contact with those on board and had "no information" regarding the whereabouts of the 110 people supposed to be on board.
An NGO, Civil Society Network demanded an explanation from the Maltese government, reported the Times of Malta. Several NGOs operating in the area have been keen to avoid a repeat of previous Easter tragedies, including last year, which resulted in the loss of life of some migrants' lives as well as an alleged pushback.
Drifting without food or water
The two boats which were rescued are thought to have left Libya in the middle of last week. One boat, carrying about 100 people is according to another article in The Times of Malta, "thought to have left Libya on Wednesday night."
A second vessel, with about 60 people on board had also been at sea for at least 60 hours when, according to Alarm Phone it began drifting towards the Italian Search and Rescue zone. Alarm Phone told the Times of Malta that in this case, the engine on board had stopped working and people had been without food or water since at least Friday.
On April 3, the news agency Agence France Presse AFP reported that they couldn’t independently verify Alarm Phone’s account of what had happened to the third boat which had been reported. AFP said that neither Italy or Maltese Search and Rescue had responded to requests for comments about the boats.
The UN Migration Agency IOM has estimated that since January this year, "about 300 migrants" have already died, or gone missing in an attempt to cross the Mediterranean. In 2020, about 1,200 people are thought to have died crossing the same route.
With AFP, Times of Malta