Çarşamba günü denizde 100’den fazla göçmeni kurtaran Türk tankerinin bu göçmenler tarafından kaçırılması üzerine gemiye müdahale eden Malta özel harekat ekibi, kontrolü kaptana iade edip limana kadar eşlik etti.
Gemi Senglea’daki Malta Boiler Rıhtımı’na yanaştığında, geminin güvertesinde nöbet tutan silahlı askeri personel ve bir düzineden fazla göçmen de görülüyordu. Soruşturma amacıyla göçmenlerin gözaltına alınması için kıyıya çok sayıda polis aracı park edilmişti. Kelepçeli olarak çıkarılan dört kişi geminin kaçırılmasının şüphelileri olduğu zannediliyordu.
İtalya ve Malta’daki yetkililer Çarşamba günü yaptığı açıklamada, grubun Akdeniz’de kurtarıldıktan sonra Türk petrol tankeri El Hiblu 1’i devraldığını ve ardından, Libya’ya giden geminin mürettebatını, Avrupa’ya doğru bir rotaya yönlendirmeye zorladıklarını söyledi.
Maltalı yetkililerin verdiği bilgiye göre, Türk tankeri denizde – 77 erkek, 19 kadın, 12 çocuk ve küçük çocuklar da dahil olmak üzere toplamda 108 kişiyi kurtarmıştı. Bir hamile kadın ve bir çocuk önlem olarak hastahanede tedaviye alındı.
By The Associated Press
VALLETTA, Malta — A Maltese special operations team boarded a tanker carrying more than 100 migrants on Thursday that the authorities said had been hijacked by several of the people who had been rescued at sea, returning control to the captain and escorting it to port.
Armed military personnel stood guard on the ship’s deck, and a dozen or so migrants were also visible, as the vessel docked at Boiler Wharf in the Maltese city of Senglea. Several police vans were parked on shore to take custody of the migrants for investigation. Four men who were led off in handcuffs were believed to be suspects in commandeering the vessel.
The authorities in Italy and Malta said on Wednesday that the group had taken over the Turkish oil tanker El Hiblu 1 after being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea, and then forced the crew to put the Libya-bound vessel on a course north toward Europe.
In all, the Turkish tanker had rescued 108 people — 77 men, 19 women and 12 minors, including toddlers, at sea, Maltese officials said. One pregnant woman and one child were being treated at a hospital as a precaution.
The ship had been heading toward Italy’s southernmost island of Lampedusa and the island of Malta when Maltese forces intercepted it and established communications with the captain while the ship was still 30 nautical miles offshore.
The captain told the Maltese armed forces that he was not in control of the vessel “and that he and his crew were being forced and threatened by a number of migrants to proceed to Malta.” A patrol vessel stopped the tanker from entering Maltese waters, they said.
The special forces team that restored control was backed by a patrol vessel, two fast interceptor craft and a helicopter. There was no immediate word on the condition of El Hiblu 1’s crew.
Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who has taken a hard-line position against immigration, described the takeover as “the first act of piracy on the high seas with migrants.” Mr. Salvini, who insisted the ship would not be allowed to dock in Italy, on Thursday praised the Maltese forces’ interception.
“Immigration is managed by criminals and should be blocked by any legal means necessary,” Mr. Salvini was quoted as saying by the Italian news agency ANSA.
Humanitarian organizations say that migrants are mistreated and even tortured in Libya, and have protested protocols to return migrants who have been rescued offshore. Italy and Malta have refused to open their ports to humanitarian ships that rescue migrants at sea, creating numerous standoffs as European governments haggle over which one will take people in.
Mediterranea, a private group that operates a rescue ship and monitors how governments treat migrants, urged compassion for the group on the hijacked vessel and said it hoped European countries would act “in the name of fundamental rights, remembering that we are dealing with human beings fleeing hell.”
Mass migration to Europe has dropped sharply since 2015, when more than one million people from the Middle East, Asia and Africa fled to the Continent. The surge created a humanitarian crisis, with many desperate travelers drowning and arrival spots such as Italy and Greece struggling to house large numbers of asylum seekers.
Along with the dangerous sea journey itself, those who try to cross the Mediterranean risk being stopped by the Libyan Coast Guard, which transfers them to detention centers where human rights groups say they are routinely subjected to abuse.
European Union members “alert the Libyan Coast Guard when refugees and migrants are spotted at sea so they can be taken back to Libya, despite knowing that people there are arbitrarily detained and exposed to widespread torture, rape, killings and exploitation,” said Matteo de Bellis, an international migration researcher for Amnesty International.
European Union countries, responding to domestic opposition to welcoming immigrants, have significantly diminished operations in the Mediterranean, withdrawing their ships and limiting the mission to air surveillance.
“This shameful decision has nothing to do with the needs of people who risk their lives at sea, but everything to do with the inability of European governments to agree on a way to share responsibility for them,” Mr. de Bellis said.