Two boats carrying some 500 Somali and Eritrean immigrants from Libya entered Malta this afternoon.

The first boat arrived in Dahlet Qorrot, the second at Haywharf at around 5.30 a.m. The Gozo boat was also escorted to Haywharf where it arrived at around 7.30 p.m.

The arrivals were the first in Malta this year and since the conflict between rebels and Gaddafi forces in Libya.

The immigrants include many women and children and an amputee, who was in a wheelchair. Those who arrived at 5.30 p.m. said they had spent two nights and three days at sea. Journalists were allowed at Haywharf for about 15 minutes but were then turned away. They were later allowed in again but were not permitted to speak to the migrants.

The AFM said that earlier this afternoon it was informed by the French maritime rescue co-ordination centre at La Garde that a French naval vessel had encountered a 60-foot long vessel to the east of Malta and was escorting them some 12 nautical miles from Malta.

The AFM sent a helicopter and later a patrol boat and the soldiers reported that the migrants onboard were not feeling well, since they had drank seawater and they had requested to enter Malta.

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