216 people rescued from Mediterranean

Approximately 216 migrants and refugees were rescued from two dinghies in the Mediterranean Sea and taken to Malta by an armed forces patrol boat on May 25. At least four children and one pregnant woman were among the rescued.

A total of 12 boats holding migrants and refugees arrived at Sicily, Sardinia and Lampedusa between May 23 and May 25. Maltese armed forces said good weather conditions led to an increase in the number of migrant departures from Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, according to Al Jazeera.

Due to Italy’s location in the Mediterranean and status as a European Union member, it is the destination for many migrants and refugees. In 2016, Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s right-wing nationalist party, “spearheaded the new government’s anti-immigration stance, turning away humanitarian rescue ships from Italian ports” in response to large influx of Sub-Saharan migrants from North Africa, according to BBC.

More than 500 migrants have reached Malta this year, while 1,425 have made it to Italy. The number of migrants and refugees who set course for Malta has increased in recent years, but the numbers are especially high as a result of Italy refusing to accept any more refugees or migrants.  

So far in 2019, 15,459 migrants and refugees have “risked their lives reaching Europe,” according to The UN Refugee Agency. 427 more have died while attempting to reach their destination. These numbers are still expected to stay significantly lower than the over 1 million migrants and refugees of 2015.

Malta appealed to the EU in 2018, seeking assistance in dealing with the high flow of migrants and refugees, but an agreement has yet to be made. Instead a new solution is agreed upon for each individual rescue.

When 62 migrants were rescued by Maltese forces on April 9, for example, the EU decided to relocate them throughout other EU member countries. The 62 migrants were moved across Luxembourg, Germany, France and Portugal.

According to Al Jazeera, in response to Malta’s claims that there are too many refugees for the small country to take in, Salvini said, “It’s [Malta’s] problem, they must deal with it.”

In a press statement released in April, the Maltese government said, “Once again, the European Union’s smallest state has been put under pointless pressure in being tasked with resolving an issue which was not its responsibility.”

It is yet to be known what will happen to the 216 people rescued on May 25.