Uncertain fate for boat people stranded between Italy, Malta
03/17/2012 18:40 GMT
VALLETTA, March 17, 2012 (AFP) - A French fishing trawler that came to the aid of boat people was stranded between the Italian island of Lampedusa and Malta on Saturday amid a dispute over which country to take responsibility for them.
"The migrants were rescued by a French trawler and we directed it to Lampedusa, according to international nautical standards, because it was the closest safe port of call," a Maltese army source told AFP.
"However, the authorities in Lampedusa refused it entry, because they said that it was not a safe port. We are now in talks with Lampedusa and with the Tunisians, who also intervened," he said.
The army said the migrants had been rescued earlier Saturday. A search for another three boatloads of migrants at sea somewhere between Libya and Lampedusa was ongoing, the source said.
The incident came as five people were found dead Saturday off Italy's southernmost tip in another rickety boat which was carrying 56 immigrants.
The Italian coastguard rescued the survivors and took them to Lampedusa where they received medical help before being transferred to the mainland.
The port on the tiny island was declared "unsafe" in September 2011, after rioting Tunisian migrants angered at their long detention in cramped conditions set fire to the reception centre, which has been off limits since then.
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