Ninety immigrants claiming to be from Somalia sailed into one of Malta’s most beautiful sandy beaches on Sunday night where about 100 people were attending a full moon gathering.

The weary migrants, including several children, were helped off the dinghy by the surprised Maltese who had been relaxing by campfires at Għajn Tuffieħa (Riviera Beach). The incident happened at about midnight.

“I was sitting at the edge of the beach drinking a glass of wine when I saw this dinghy drifting ashore. It was very surreal,” said Alba Cauchi, an NGO worker, who was the first to rush to the dinghy to see whether anyone needed medical attention.

The full moon gathering was organised by NGO Why Not, which celebrates diversity.

“For once, they got a real welcome,” Ms Cauchi added, as she recounted the teamwork that went into bringing the migrants to safety.

Many of the attendees helped collect water and food for the migrants as others contacted the hospital seeking medical assistance for the weakest migrants, including a pregnant woman. Two nurses attending the gathering administered first aid.

The Civil Protection Department was informed and several police squads arrived to round up the migrants and take them into detention.

The migrants claimed seven people had died along the journey and their bodies were thrown overboard.

Some said the journey took a week, though their condition suggested they were actually at sea for a couple of days.

Although the migrants said they were Somali, the authorities suspect many of them are more likely to come from Chad and from other countries closer to the west of Africa.

There were 20 women and 70 men on board the dinghy, including four children and a pregnant woman.

The Home Affairs Ministry said that although some were hospitalised, they were all expected to be discharged soon. The migrants are being kept at the Ħal Far and Safi detention centres. The minors will be released following medical clearance.

This arrival comes just over a week since more than 50 immigrants landed in Malta, one group in Manikata and another in Gozo (near Qbajjar).

As sea conditions improve due to the calmer weather, the prospects of further landings is increasing.

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