Malta informed its navy has seized control of a tanker ship hijacked by migrants in the Mediterranean, according to a government statement. (Image above: illustration).
“The Captain repeatedly stated that he was not in control of the vessel and that he and his crew were being forced and threatened by a number of migrants to proceed to Malta. AFM Patrol Vessel P21 stopped the tanker from entering the Maltese territorial waters,” the government statement said.
Maltese maritime authorities established contact with the vessel’s captain when the tanker was about 30 nautical miles (55 km) off the coast.
Italy‘s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, , said that relevant authorities would not have allowed “criminals” who had committed an act of piracy to enter its ports.
Regardless an act of piracy the Sea Watch, NGO which carries out search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, criticized Salvini‘s comments, blaming Europe for despair, pushing Africans to criminal path.
“We must look to these 108 people with an eye of humanity and understand that any actions taken yesterday were in self-defense against the deadly consequences forced upon them by Europe’s inhumane border policy,” says Johannes Bayer, Chairman of Sea-Watch.
Several police vans were lined up in the port to take custody of the migrants for investigation, and five migrants were removed from the ship in handcuffs.
Malta officials report 100 illegal migrants arrived on board of a hijacked vessel — 38 men, 15 women and 47 claiming to be minors. In absence of documents the real age of the “minors” is impossible to establish in ordinary legal procedures, the status of a minor automatically foresees a set of advantages, and makes it much easier for migrants to obtain asylum status.