According to TGCOM the boat now has entered Italian territorial waters.
Times of Malta : Matteo Salvini has vowed Italy would bar a boat with 450 migrants currently in Malta’s search and rescue area.
Details on the boat are still sparse, but Italy’s right wing deputy prime minister kept up his anti-migrant rhetoric and said his country cannot and would not let the boat dock.
Italian newspaper La Repubblica said the boat is around 20 metres long and probably left from the Libyan coastal town of Zuwara to the west of Tripoli.
The migrants’ condition is not yet known and it is unclear whether they were on board a rescuers’ vessel. A spokesman for the Maltese government had no comment to make for the time being.
The Independent reported that Italian news agency ANSA said Italian foreign minister Angelino Alfano, in a note to Malta’s ambassador in Rome, informed Malta that the Italian rescue coordination centre at 4:25 a.m. was informed that a boat with some 450 people aboard was in Maltese search and rescue area, and that there were minors aboard with urgent need of help.
Maltese authorities were immediately informed, and after some 2 hours said they had assumed coordination of the rescue ops and was sending a plane which spotted the boat drifting in Matlese SAR area, ANSA reported.
At that point Malta sent Rome a request to see if Italy would cooperate. After no rescue vessels were sent, ANSA reported that Italy’s foreign ministry asked Maltese authories “to carry out with maximum urgency their SAR responsibilities”. The Italian foreign minister insisted the port of disembarkation should be a Maltese port since Malta is coordinating and event is in Malta’s SAR area.
Italy and Malta have been at each other’s throats for several weeks on migration issues.
Last month, the MV Lifeline with 234 rescued migrants on board, was left stranded out at sea for almost a week until Malta brokered a nine-nation deal. Earlier, the two countries were also in dispute over another NGO ship, the Aquarius, which eventually docked in Spain.