Last week, a FRONTEX aircraft detected a suspicious fishing trawler towing a smaller boat. The boat was empty, but something caught the attention of the agency’s experts. Frontex kept observing the boat for several hours, and all of a sudden people started to emerge from below the deck. At one time a smuggler jumped on the smaller boat encouraging a group of migrants to follow him. When all 81 migrants boarded the smaller boat, the mother ship was detached and started sailing south while the small boat started going towards the Italian island of Lampedusa.
This was a clear example of a “mother vessel” used by criminals to carry a large group of migrants across the sea towards their destination before unloading them onto a smaller boat. The surveillance aircraft together with a drone kept observing the fishing trawler and the boat with migrants over several hours, alerting Italian and Maltese authorities, as well as EUNAVFOR Med around 54 nautical miles South of Lampedusa. The Italian National Coordination Centre initiated a complex operation that involved Italian GUARDIA DI FINANZA and GUARDIA COSTIERA.
They chased up and detained the fishing vessel with seven crew members – 6 Egyptian and 1 Tunisian and escorted her to Licata. Crew were arrested and trawler was seized. Most of the migrants came from Bangladesh, Morocco and Libya. Most of them were not wearing life vests when they were left in the middle of the sea and had allegedly been left without water or any other supplies of which they were rescued and taken to Lampedusa with the Italian authorities investigating the case.
Photos by Capt. Lawrence Dalli. Do not use these images without my permission. © All rights reserved. Malta Ship Photos & Action Photos – www.maltashipphotos.com