More than twenty refugee boats are on Sunday on the Mediterranean Sea towards Europe. Malta, Italy and the United States have sent rescue ships.
Off the Italian island of Lampedusa, more than a thousand refugees had already been rescued on Saturday. Photo: dpa
Because of two dozen located refugee boats, several countries in the Mediterranean launched a large-scale naval operation on Sunday. The operation involved ships of Malta, Italy and the United States, according to the Maltese government. According to the statement, it is "one of the largest search and rescue operations organized in the Mediterranean Sea in recent years."
According to the Italian news agency Ansa, a ship was expected in the afternoon in the port of Pozzallo in Sicily, on board of which three people had died due to the grueling crossing. In addition to Maltese forces, ships of the Italian Navy and Coast Guard as well as U.S. warships are participating in the naval operation, the Maltese government said.
In addition, all merchant ships in the area are being called to keep a lookout for the refugee boats, it said. The course of the 25 located refugee boats is being tracked by radar of the Italian coast guard, among others. During the night, more than 130 people were already rescued off Malta whose inflatable boat lost air and threatened to sink. They arrived on the island on Sunday.
Malta’s head of government, Joseph Muscat, used the occasion to once again criticize a lack of support from Europe. Malta, Italy and the U.S. were doing good work together, but Europe "is conspicuous by its complete absence," he wrote on the short message service Twitter.
Also off the Italian island of Lampedusa, more than a thousand refugees had been rescued from three completely overcrowded boats on Saturday. The day before, about 2,500 refugees had been taken off a total of 17 ships off Italy. Many refugees come from impoverished sub-Saharan African countries. Because of the good weather, the influx is currently particularly large. Thousands of refugees die every year because their boats are unseaworthy or overloaded.