Last week, 14 North African migrants were picked up by an Italian boat 30 miles off the coast of Lampedusa and 90 miles off the coast of Malta. Initially the Italian authorities refused to send any officers to the location as they claimed that Lampedusa was not considered the “closest, safest port.”
Eventually an Italian patrol boat eventually picked them up and turned them over to a Libyan navy vessel, which took them back to Tripoli, despite the pleas of the UNHCR not to do so. The UNHCR has been very critical of Italy’s handling of repatriating migrants.
Indeed, reports Malta Today:
Fisherman Nicolò Russo from Mazara del Vallo who steered the trawler expressed his dismay at the intransigence shown by both Malta and Italy towards the migrants who were reportedly terrified of the prospect of being repatriated to Libya.
In a related story on the island nation, an off-duty detention officer caught two migrants last night who had escaped their holding cell, reports the Times of Malta.