A further 281 migrants arrive

by Scott Grech
A further 281 Sudanese and Eritrean migrants arrived yesterday, including scores of women and children, bringing the total number of migrants who arrived in Malta on Monday and yesterday to 816.

The Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) sent its P-24 to escort the migrants to Malta after receiving information that a boatload of migrants was sighted and stranded around half a mile off Xlendi just after noon, after the engine of their boat stalled.

The AFM then towed the migrants’ boat to Marfa at 4pm. An AFM source said the migrants had been out at sea for four days. None of the 281 migrants, among whom were 70 women and 26 children, appeared injured, and all fully followed the AFM’s orders.

The police confirmed yesterday that the number of migrants who arrived on Monday evening was 535.

Monday’s migrants, who arrived in two run down and overcrowded boats, departed from Libya and were the first migrants to arrive in Malta since the start of the Libyan conflict just over a month ago. The majority of migrants claimed to be from Somalia and Eritrea, although among them were Ethiopians and Sudanese nationals.

Escorted by the AFM’s P-51, the first boat was brought ashore at Hay Wharf, Sa Maison, at 6pm, and 333 migrants disembarked from the boat, among whom were 72 women and 34 children.

Another boatload of migrants arrived at 7.30pm, escorted by the AFM’s P-21, and also berthed at Hay Wharf, with 202 migrants, including 36 women and 13 children.

Scores of AFM personnel and members of the Malta Red Cross were on hand to assist the migrants.

One woman immediately felt unwell, and was soon lifted onto a stretcher and taken away in an ambulance. A male amputee in a wheelchair was also led away from the crowd.

The migrants were later taken to rest at the Ħal Far detention centres.

More migrants believed to be en route

The UN refugee agency released a statement yesterday to confirm that over 2,000 non-Libyans have fled Tripoli by boat to Italy and Malta over the past four days.

More migrants are believed to be en route, which will further stretch reception facilities for people possibly in need of protection, the UN said.

A spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said: “There are unconfirmed reports of a number of boats in distress in the Mediterranean carrying people fleeing from Libya,” adding that many have been stuck in Libya for weeks because of the conflict there.

The UNHCR, added the spokeswoman, is discussing with Italian authorities how to deal with the arrivals and pointed out that thousands have landed on the small islands of Linosa and Lampedusa, which are increasingly overwhelmed by the influx of refugees, over the past few weeks.

Since mid-January, 19,000 Tunisians, mostly young men seeking employment, have arrived on Lampedusa. While 13,000 have been transferred to reception centres in Sicily and mainland Italy, over 6,000 Tunisian migrants remain, outnumbering the local population of some 5,000 people.

The UNHCR also said that in addition to the arrivals in Italy and Malta, as of 27 March, 381,888 people have fled the violence in Libya. This includes over 193,783 to Tunisia, 156,471 to Egypt, 15,647 to Niger, 9,987 to Algeria, 3,200 to Chad and 2,800 to Sudan.


source : http://www.independent.com.

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