A group of 115 life jacket-less Somali migrants were rescued off the Maltese coast on Saturday by local fishermen. The migrants' boat was in imminent danger of sinking and 5 of them had already been rescued from the water. The 34 women and 51 men on board the sinking dingy were eventually taken by a Navy vessel to the Maltese mainland.
The current policy on migrant boats sailing from Libya to southern Europe is to deny them landing rights and to turn them back to the African mainland, as happened 2 days earlier when 84 migrants were forced to turn back to Africa after being intercepted by the Italian Navy. This was only after a Maltese helicopter had ferried a mother and her new-born baby from the boat to hospital.
Recently the numbers of migrants attempting to make the crossing from Libya to southern Europe has dropped off significantly since an agreement between the EU and Libya to cooperate on anti-migration patrols was negotiated. However, these 2 boats may be the beginning of a new spike in boat numbers following the mass killing of Somali detainees in a Libyan prison a week ago. Reports coming out of Banghazi indicate that on 10 August Libyan prison guards opened fire on Somali prisoners causing at least 20 deaths and wounding 50 others.
The Maltese rescue comes a week after a stand-off between 3 boats carrying migrants and coast guards off the Algerian coast. At least one man is reported to have drown and 11 others were missing after 2 of the boats sank, one after colliding with a coast guard vessel.