Migrants trying to reach Europe from North Africa have been left stranded on the Mediterranean Sea after Italy and Malta closed their ports due to public health reasons amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Alarm Phone, which acts as a hotline for refugees and migrants in distress on the Mediterranean, said Monday that it hadn’t heard from one of three boats that requested assistance in Malta’s search and rescue zone. When Alarm Phone reached out to the Maltese authorities, they were frequently placed on hold or the line disconnected, according to the hotline’s Maurice Stierl.
The boat that remains in contact, carrying 47 people, has been at sea for nearly four days, Stierl said. The Aita Mari, a rescue ship run by the Spanish NGO Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario, was diverted in an attempt to reach them, but it was only authorised to provide life vests, food, and water. The NGO wrote on Twitter that the Maltese authorities were not answering their calls for further instructions.
The third migrant vessel, carrying between 71 and 77 people, has landed in Ragusa, Italy, according to Alarm Phone.
Meanwhile, the Alan Kurdi – a rescue ship run by the German charity Sea-Eye – has been in Italian waters for a week, but has been prevented from docking. The ship has 150 people aboard.
At least 16,000 migrants and refugees are estimated to have drowned in the Central Mediterranean – the most frequented migration route from Libya to Italy – since 2014.
– Izzy Ellis
Right now, we’re working with contributors on the ground in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries to tell the stories of people enduring and responding to a rapidly evolving humanitarian crisis.
We’re documenting the threats to humanitarian response in the country and providing a platform for those bearing the brunt of the invasion. Our goal is to bring you the truth at a time when disinformation is rampant.
But while much of the world’s focus may be on Ukraine, we are continuing our reporting on myriad other humanitarian disasters – from Haiti to the Sahel to Afghanistan to Myanmar. We’ve been covering humanitarian crises for more than 25 years, and our journalism has always been free, accessible for all, and – most importantly – balanced.
You can support our journalism from just $5 a month, and every contribution will go towards our mission.