No Malta-registered boats or Maltese citizens were involved in transporting 300 migrants stopped by the Libyan coastguard late last month, contrary to earlier media reports, the government said yesterday.

Libyan news agency Lana reported the migrants were on board three ‘Maltese-registered boats’ when they were apprehended on November 29.

The report was picked up by international news agency Reuters and widely reported in the local press.

Police Commissioner Peter Paul Zammit tried to establish the veracity of the reports last weekend but his Libyan counterparts initially failed to provide any information.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the Home Affairs and National Security Ministry said the Libyan authorities had since confirmed that the Lana news report was inaccurate, and no Malta-registered boats were involved.

The only possible involvement of Malta is as a final destination for the migrants

Furthermore, no Maltese citizens were found to be among 300 migrants, the spokeswoman continued.

“The only possible involvement of Malta is as a final destination for the migrants,” she said.

The migrants were mainly from Mali, Gambia, Ghana and Senegal, according to Lana.

They had been picked up northwest of the capital Tripoli and taken to detention centres for processing, Lana reported.

Libya is a notorious departure point for refugees and migrants attempting to reach the EU on boats.

The North African country is struggling with growing anarchy two years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

The flow of refugees has been fuelled by civil war in Syria and unrest in Egypt and other Arab and African countries.

If the three seized vessels had been registered under Malta’s flag, this would not mean that the crew and owners were definitely Maltese. The island is a popular registration country for merchant shipping companies worldwide.

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