5 Jul 2013

EU help sought after refugees rescued by Malta

8:10 am on 5 July 2013

Malta has called for assistance from the European Union after rescuing 291 people from a drifting boat.

The BBC reports the vessel was intercepted by Maltese patrol boats after coming from Libya.

Among the 243 men and 48 women on board, at least two had gunshot wounds and others were nearly unconscious.

Seven people from the boat were flown to hospital by helicopter, while the others were taken ashore by patrol boats.

Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia said many on board were thought to be originally from Eritrea.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat called EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy to appeal for solidarity, saying the burden of immigration to the EU should not fall on its smallest member.

Meanwhile, the the BBC reports the Italian coast guard on Wednesday intercepted a boat with at least 80 migrants on board off the island of Lampedusa, which has been inundated with migrants in recent years.

The passengers were thought to be Syrians who set out from Egypt.