Update 4: Migrant dies after rescue, another two critical, Ebola tests are negative
20 migrants reports to have perished at sea
Last updated 5.50p.m. - A migrant has died at Mater Dei Hospital, hours after being rescued this morning.
The man was in a group of 87 migrants picked up from a drifting dinghy some miles off Mellieha. Three were found to be in critical condition, having swallowed sea water after suffering dehydration. They were rushed to hospital, where one of them passed away. Another five migrants were also taken to hospital for urgent medical care.
The migrants, all men, said their group had originally consisted of 100 people but 20 perished during the voyage.
No bodies were found on the boat or at sea.
The migrants claimed to be Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea and the Ivory Coast. They said they started their trip from Libya and had been at sea for days.
After rescue by a patrol boat, the migrants were taken to Haywharf, the AFM maritime base where they were received by AFM personnel in bio-hazard suits because of the risk of Ebola.
Disembarkation started about three hours after the patrol boat arrived, with officials having awaited the arrival from Mater Dei Hospital of a decontamination tent which was set up purely as a precaution.
A Health Ministry spokeswoman insisted that there was no cause for alarm.
The migrants have now been moved to Safi Detention Centre where they are being held in quarantine, monitored by the AFM and public health authorities. Those in hospital were immediately tested for Ebola. The tests were negative.
Ebola has a three-week incubation period and the risk that the migrants carry the disease is low, especially considering that the migrants spent time in Libya before heading over to Malta, the spokeswoman said.
The rescue was the first in several months and came at a time when the number of migrants in detention had slipped to a low of just 29. At one time there were over 2,000.