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Armed forces escort tanker hijacked by rescued migrants to Malta

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Friday, 29 March 2019

Malta's navy takes control of abducted tanker

A tanker carried by refugees in the Mediterranean Sea is under the control of the Maltese Navy. A special squad went on board to secure the ship and bring it to Malta.

The ship "El Hiblu 1" is in 2015 in the port of Istanbul.
The tanker "El Hiblu 1" in the port of Istanbul (stock image).Copyright: Ruslan Tsarik / / dpa

The Maltese Navy has taken control of a tanker hijacked by migrants in the Mediterranean. A special unit had gone on board and have secured the tanker, said the Navy on Thursday morning. Meanwhile, the ship has arrived in Malta.

The tanker "El Hiblu I" had taken on Tuesday evening castaways in international waters off Libya. These had then brought the ship under their control and diverted to Europe.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini then wrote to Twitter: "They are not castaways, but pirates." The tanker suddenly changed its course six nautical miles off the Libyan port of Tripoli.

About 100 refugees on board

The operator of the ship and the Libyan authorities were initially inaccessible. The German aid organization Sea-Eye said its rescue ship "Alan Kurdi" had overheard the radio between the "El Hiblu I" and a European naval aircraft. The captain therefore called for support because the people on board were "very upset and do not want to be brought back to Libya."

The ship had reportedly taken about a hundred shipwrecked on board. Many refugees rescued in the Mediterranean have been resisting landings in Libya in recent months.

They fear the local prison camps for refugees . The UN reports on inhuman living conditions, torture and rape, which are inflicted on tens of thousands of people. The inmates of the camps are mainly from Somalia, Ethiopia or Eritrea.

Army forces stand onboard Motor Tanker El Hiblu 1 that was hijacked by migrants it had rescued off Libya, docked at Boiler Wharf in Valletta's Grand Harbour on March 28, 2019, after Maltese armed forces took control of the vessel | Matthew Mirabelli/AFP via Getty Images

Armed forces escort tanker hijacked by rescued migrants to Malta

Italy’s interior minister has called the rescued migrants ‘pirates’ and denied them permission to disembark in Italy.


3/28/19, 12:40 PM CET


Updated 3/28/19, 4:24 PM CET

A small tanker hijacked by migrants rescued off the Libyan coast docked in a Maltese port early Thursday after special operations forces took control of the vessel.

The Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) seized control of the Elhiblu 1 as it attempted to enter Maltese waters after the ship's crew were overpowered by the migrants who had earlier been rescued, France 24 reported.

In a statement, the AFM Special Operations Unit said its team was "dispatched to board and secure the vessel," giving control of the ship back to the captain. It said the vessel, with 108 migrants on board, was escorted into Valletta "to be handed over to the police for further investigations."

The merchant tanker had rescued the migrants, who included women and children, in Libyan territorial waters late Tuesday, but instead of returning to Libya, the ship suddenly changed course for Europe after some of the migrants "forced and threatened" the crew.

Migrants fleeing Libya have suffered serious human rights abuses at the hands of some Libyan coastguards, who are funded, equipped and trained by the EU.

Following Italy's increasingly tough line on migration — far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called the rescued migrants "pirates," and refused permission for them to land in Italy — migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean are frequently returned to Libya once rescued.

Despite agreeing to extend Operation Sophia, the EU's anti-smuggling operation in the Mediterranean, for six months, the European Union said it would "temporarily suspend the deployment of naval assets" responsible for bringing tens of thousands of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean to Italy since 2015.

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