Rome – Maltese Armed Forces say they have recovered two bodies and 100 survivors from a migrant boat in distress, while a stand-off continued over the fate of 177 migrants picked up last week by the Italian coastguard.
A boat 68 nautical miles (126 kilometres) south of Malta "was taking in water and in imminent danger of sinking. 100 persons were on board. The vessel was also carrying 2 lifeless bodies. The persons on board have been rescued," the Maltese Armed Forces said.
Diciotti remains moored
Meanwhile, Italian coastguard unit Diciotti remained moored in the Sicilian port of Catania, with no permission to disembark the 177 people it picked up six days ago in Maltese search and rescue waters.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right eurosceptic League party, says he will not let anyone off the Diciotti until a deal is reached for other European Union countries to take in the migrants.
Disagreements over migrant distribution
Similar redistribution deals have been reached in the past weeks, but on Tuesday Salvini charged that several EU countries which promised to take in some migrants that landed in Sicily last month did not fulfil the pledge.
Malta was among the accused countries, but its government on Wednesday said "Italian authorities have not provided any tangible procedure for Malta to follow" in order to fulfil scheduled commitments.
In turn, the Maltese government said Italy had not yet taken in a quota of migrants from a boat that docked in Malta on June 27, "despite the efforts of the Maltese authorities to complete this process with the Italian authorities."