The hunt for a missing asylum seeker vessel around Maltese territorial waters has continued, with fears growing that its 55 passengers could have perished in the Mediterranean Sea.
In a series of tweets, migrant emergency hotline Alarm Phone claimed that, overnight, the Armed Forces of Malta sent out a helicopter which spotted a boat in distress. AFM reportedly issued a NAVTEX detailing its position. However, it refused to rescue the vessel.
Italy, after stamping its feet and refusing any form of assistance over the last few days, also conducted its own aerial search for the lost boat. It flew over a large area covering the forecasted drift of the vessel. The boat was still no found.
???? Where are the ~55 missing people? In the night, the IVAN (Portuguese flag) was instructed to engage in a rescue but continued north. Once more, #Malta has failed to rescue, sending only an air asset. The weather is terrible & our hope that they are still alive is diminishing.
— Alarm Phone (@alarm_phone) April 14, 2020
Alarm Phone also claimed that a Portuguese commercial vessel, IVAN, had stopped in an area where the boat could be located. It was instructed to rescue the asylum seekers. However, it seems that it continued on.
“The weather is terrible & our hope that they are still alive is diminishing,” Alarm Phone said.
The boat, which is reportedly carrying 55 people, was cast adrift from three other vessels during the early hours of Easter Sunday. Alarm Phone has lost all communication with the vessel and have simply been unable to locate it.
Reports that the boat was a discovered capsized dinghy turned out to be false. However, the boat has yet to be found.
The issue erupted after Malta declared its ports as unsafe due to the COVID-19 pandemic after rescuing 66 migrants trapped out at sea. This came after Italy, and Spain enforced similar closures.
Four boats carrying around 250 people are currently out at sea, with around 170 believed to be in Maltese waters. One recorded conversation was published shows a pregnant woman with a seven-year-old stuck on a boat in Maltese waters begging for help.
Malta’s Archbishop Charles Scicluna has called for compassion and is insisting that the government open the ports. However, the government is holding its ground, with Bartolo saying that it is unfair and unrealistic for Malta to shoulder the burden by itself.