Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has said that Malta is not capable of properly patrolling the area of the Mediterranean assigned to Malta for search and rescue operations and, in so doing, insinuating that the Armed Forces of Malta acted improperly when it failed to rescue the five surviving Eritreans who were encountered by a Maltese patrol boat.
Malta’s Foreign Minister Tonio Borg said that Malta would not agree to reduce its search and rescue jurisdiction. “Italian Foreign Minister Frattini said in an interview in Corriere della Sera: ‘It is clear they (Malta) do not have the instruments, such as number of boats and crews, to control such a wide area.’” “Asked if Malta was to blame for the tragedy, Frattini said he did not have concrete evidence to say so with certainty.”
“Malta has denied allegations it failed to save migrants. ‘Five Eritreans found on a dinghy were in good health and refused to be rescued since they wanted to go to Italy,’ Maltese Armed Forces Commander brigadier Carmel Vassallo said in a statement. Vassallo said Malta did not abandon the migrants until they arrived in the territorial waters of Lampedusa. ‘We stayed there until we were certain the Italian customs guards went for them,’ he said.”
“The prosecutor’s office in Agrigento in Sicily has opened an inquiry. Sources close to the office said it might ask Maltese authorities to provide further information to check reports one of their boats had approached the migrants’ vessel without providing assistance.”