Malta Rescues 120 Migrants at the Mediterranean Sea

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Malta Rescues 120 Migrants at the Mediterranean Sea

Valletta (dpa) – About 120 boat migrants were expected to arrive in Malta on Wednesday after being rescued from rough seas south of the Mediterranean island, local daily Times of Malta reported.

The migrants‘ condition was not yet known. Their rescue came five days after a deadly shipwreck which may have killed up to 200 would-be refugees. There were 212 survivors and 38 known victims from the October 11 incident, reports said earlier this week.

Speaking during a visit to Israel, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat criticized Sicily‘s regional government for declaring Tuesday a state of emergency to deal with the migrant arrivals, claiming it would put more pressure on Malta.

He reiterated calls for the European Union to take action on migration, ahead of an October 24-25 summit in Brussels that was expected to focus on the issue.

In Italy, the government faced criticism over a failure to maintain its own pledge to hold state funerals for the 364 people who died in another major shipwreck near the southern island of Lampedusa, on October 3.

The coffins of the victims have this week been transported to mainland Sicily for burial, without any form of official ceremony, which Prime Minister Enrico Letta had promised last week during a visit to the island with top EU officials.

"If they say state funerals, they either do them, or they communicate that they don‘t do them, so that before the coffins left Lampedusa we could have organized appropriate village funerals," the mayor of the island, Giusi Nicolini, said.

Promises by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, made during the same Lampedusa visit, to "immediately" solve the problem of overcrowding at the island‘s migrant reception centre have also gone largely unfulfilled.

As it main response to the migrant sea tragedies, Italy has launched a stepped up sea and air patrol operation on the Mediterranean, as a stopgap measure ahead of a possible wider European Union operation.

Amnesty International urged Italy to clarify that those rescued in international waters would not be taken back to Libya, because the country "violates the human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees."

Another non-governmental organization, the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR), quoted an Interior Ministry official as saying that 35,085 boat migrants had arrived in Italy this year, as of October 14. The figure included 9,805 Syrians and 3,140 Somalis.

The official, Riccardo Compagnucci, said around 25,000 people had been rescued at sea, while the others docked safely on Italian shores. Over 21,000 migrants had sailed off from Libya, 8,159 from Egypt and 1,825 from Turkey, he said.

Each year, thousands of people from Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere risk their lives on the Mediterranean, paying thousands of dollars to human traffickers, to reach Europe via Italy and Malta, in search of a better life.

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