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A MALTESE soldier told a boatload of refugees last month that he would leave them to die in the water after sabotaging their engine, according to testimony about the incident published by refugee-rights activists today.
Alarm Phone, a transnational network which operates a hotline for people in distress in the Mediterranean, was contacted on April 8 by a group of 66 refugees in waters close to Malta’s search-and-rescue zone.
Alarm Phone said that it had contacted the Maltese authorities 42 times over the following two days before the refugees were finally disembarked in Malta.
The group published a detailed account of the case today, including the events on April 9 when it received a call from the boat saying: “We need your help. We have emergency.
“The Malta military is coming and cut the cable of electricity for the motor. And the Malta military knows that the water is in the boat.
“He says [nobody will] come to Malta. And when he moved, he said: ‘I leave you, I leave you [to] die in the water’.”
Alarm Phone received another call from the boat roughly an hour later. Below is an abridged version of the transcript:
Person on boat: “Hello, hello, sir, please take this number. The military of Malta want to take my phone.”
Alarm Phone: “They want to take your phone?”
Person on boat: “Please help us, please help us. I call you one more time. Please help us, please help us. We will die, we will die in the water. Hello?”
Alarm Phone: “Can you tell me the number of the ship that you see. Is it P51?”
Person on boat: “OK, the Malta military is [near] us. The number P52. Please. We will die, we will die.”
Alarm Phone: “Your engine is no longer running, right?”
Person on boat: “OK, OK, the cable of motor, the Malta military cut the cable. Now we have five days in the water and water in the boat right now. Please, some of you help us. Please.”
Alarm Phone: “One more question: How far away is the military from you? How far away is the military boat?”
Person on boat: “I don’t know but I see … two ships, two ships military of Malta. P52 and I don’t know the number of the other one.”
Person on boat: “OK, send anything. Please. Please help us, please help us.”
Alarm Phone: “We will try. We already alerted the Malta coastguard. OK.”
Person on boat: “You can say that. The military of Malta steals us, OK?”
Malta’s Prime Minister Robert Abela and other government and military officials are currently being investigated after a Maltese charity filed a criminal complaint over their involvement in the case above and forcible return of 51 other refugees to Libya at Easter.
The 78 people rescued off the coast of Malta today remain on board Antigua & Barbudan-registered cargo ship the Marina.
At the time this story was published, the ship had not been provided with a port of safety.
A government spokesperson told the Times of Malta this afternoon that the Marina was waiting on instructions from Italy to enter Lampedusa despite the fact the boat is in Maltese waters.
Read Alarm Phone's full transcript here: mstar.link/APTestimony.
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