A large ferry, the Mistral Express, carrying approximately 1800 persons was prevented yesterday from entering Italian waters near Sicily by Italian navy or coast guard boats. The ship apparently left the Libyan port of Misurata and most of its passengers are Moroccan. The ship may have been planning to sail to Morocco and may have tried to divert to Italy for purposes of refueling, but the media reports are unclear. It is also unclear who chartered the ship. Italian authorities confirm that they prevented the ship from entering Italian waters due to uncertainty regarding the identities of the passengers. An Italian government spokesperson reportedly said it was unclear whether the passengers were “genuine evacuees” from Libya. It is also unclear whether the ship then tried to sail to Malta. Some media reports say that Malta refused the ship permission to enter Maltese waters. Maltese authorities are reported as saying that this did not occur but according to media reports Maltese authorities said that they would prevent the ship from landing in Malta if it tried to do so for the same reasons advanced by Italy.
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