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MaltaToday 7 April 2021 MIDWEEK

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2 maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 7 APRIL 2021 NEWS CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 "Allegations of boats sinking, left adrift, or rescues being hindered are false and unfounded. While some NGOs have lost sight of the boat, it is evident that this was not the case for local authorities who maintained the duty of care." The AFM attached an image of the al- leged boat, which they said was being powered by two outboard engines and "on a steady course and speed". "Not every migrant boat on the high seas amounts automatically to a case of distress," it said. "There are various instances where mi- grant boats in international waters do not require assistance and express intent to proceed autonomously to their in- tended destination." The AFM said that the migrants on board repeatedly reiterated their inten- tion to continue towards their intended destination. "Contrary to allegations in the local media on this particular case, the mi- grants on board repeatedly reiterated their intention to continue proceeding towards their intended destination. In- deed, this particular boat, and others, safely reached their intended destina- tion, and on their own steam." This is the first time that the AFM is- sued a statement on the group of mi- grants. Humanitarian NGOs reported on Sat- urday that three dinghies carrying 60, 100 and 110 people, respectively, were adrift in the Maltese search and rescue region. Consequently, Sea Watch Internation- al accused the Maltese authorities of "ac- tively hindering the rescue of the people, instead of coordinating it." But the AFM dismissed this, saying that Search and Rescue operations are coordinated in accordance with the ap- plicable international conventions, reg- ulations and through the competent au- thority. On Monday, the Armed Forces of Mal- ta had denied leaving boats carrying mi- grants adrift in the Maltese search and rescue area. But in a one-sentence reply, the army gave no details on ongoing operations or the fate of the 110 migrants. The organisations reiterated that every single life matters and that Malta's mi- gration concerns in no way justify aban- doning people in distress at sea. 'Missing migrants' reached Italian territory within hours - AFM

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