AFM coordinates boat people’s rescue & recovery operation

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AFM coordinates boat people's rescue & recovery operationUpdate: The Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) yesterday received a number of reports about different boats laden with persons fleeing from Libya and steaming northwards towards the Italian island of Lampedusa. The boats crossing from North Africa were last night sighted both within and outside the Maltese search-and-rescue region (SRR).

The AFM’s Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC Malta) at Luqa Barracks coordinated the rescue and recovery operations in close collaboration with the Italian authorities (MRCC Rome). Around 700 people were landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa, after their vessels’ engines allegedly had malfunctioned during their trips northwards. Initial reports indicate that the rescued persons are of mixed Sub-Saharan nationalities, with at least one boatload including women and children. All are reported to be in good health, and have been transferred to the temporary facilities of Contrada Imbriacola on Lampedusa.

NATO Headquarters in Naples late yesterday afternoon had informed RCC Malta that a helicopter operating from one of its naval vessels had sighted two of the three boats reportedly steaming northwards from Libya. By early evening, NATO HQ reported the sighting of the third boat whilst the Italian Navy sighted a fourth, which subsequently was rescued by Tunisian rescue services. An AFM Air Wing Kingair B200 aircraft was dispatched at first light to conduct a search to locate the reported boats and verify the situation at sea.

Concurrently with these developments, RCC Malta was also handling the coordination of the rescue by Greek authorities of another boat in the Maltese SRR. This too was laden with people who allegedly had left from North Africa. The boat was some 350 nautical miles to the east of Malta and close to the Greek island of Crete. A patrol vessel under Icelandic flag from the FRONTEX framework of Operation “Poseidon” was dispatched to the area to provide assistance as required.

RCC Malta is at present coordinating deployment of assets to investigate other boats carrying persons fleeing Libya which are steaming northwards towards Lampedusa. Alert notice of these boats was received from MRCC Rome, and one such boat was already located by the AFM aircraft earlier this morning during a purposely mounted search patrol-mission. An Italian rescue helicopter of the Guardia di Finanza has also reportedly reached this boat. Other Guardia Costiera assets are indicated as proceeding towards the other reported vessels in the area.

Operations are still ongoing as the present North-Westerly Force 3 to 4 weather is set to increase to Force 5, with a moderate to rough swell in the area.

Update: During search-and-rescue (SAR) operations conducted late this afternoon in the Maltese SAR region-of-responsibility (SRR), the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) deployed its Protector-class patrol vessel P-52 and a PBN-Islander aircraft to an area south of the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Earlier in the day, the AFM’s Rescue and Co-ordination Centre (RCC Malta) at Luqa Barracks was responsible for the overall co-ordination of SAR operations being conducted in international waters, south of Lampedusa. The operations followed sightings, reported yesterday by a NATO vessel’s helicopter, of boats laden with migrants allegedly crossing the Mediterranean’s high seas from Libya.

With deteriorating weather consitions at sea and limited visibility in the air, the AFM’s assets conducted throughout the afternoon search-patterns along with Italian rescue helicopters and launches, but with no further results following today’s number of rescued groups from migrant boats. Some of the boats had allegedly stopped due to engine failures, whilst others were escorted byItalian Carabinieri, Guardia di Finanza and Guardia Costiera rescue-launches to the nearest safe port at Lampedusa.

In the Eastern sector of the Maltese SRR, the Icelandic offshore patrol vessel “Iceland,” operating under the FRONTEX joint-operation “Poseidon,” successfully rescued 93 Egyptians from a wooden vessel which was adrift due to engine failure in a position 62 miles off the Greek island of Crete.

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