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Updated: Boat with 500 migrants aground at Lampedusa after 'heading for Malta'

File picture - A migrants' boat which sank off Lampedusa on April 8.

File picture - A migrants' boat which sank off Lampedusa on April 8.

Updated 1.37 p.m.

The Armed Forces of Malta insisted today that a boat packed with migrants which was monitored by a Maltese patrol boat yesterday was not in distress and had not sought assistance as it headed towards the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Italian media earlier today claimed that the boat was escorted by Maltese coast guards towards Lampedusa after having been heading for Malta.

The boat, later found to be carrying 500 migrants, ran aground off Lampedusa this morning, but all on board were rescued.

The AFM in a statement said a patrol boat was deployed yesterday afternoon to intercept a migrants’ boat off Lampedusa after the Itaian authorities said they had no available assets.

The 20-metre boat was reported to be adrift 66 nautical miles (NM) south-west of Malta and 45 north-west (NW) off Lampedusa.

The AFM Air Wing’s Beechcraft King Air Maritime Patrol Aircraf was also scrambled to locate the boat.

By late afternoon the aircraft located the boat, steaming steadily northwards in a position just 42 NM from Lampedusa. 

“The migrants’ vessel proceeded unaided towards Lampedusa under patrol boat P-61’s surveillance until an Italian patrol boat came alongside and escorted the vessel to por," the AFM said.

"Contrary to Italian media reports, the migrants’ boat was not in distress and did not request assistance. The migrants were navigating unaided at all times, under P61 surveillance."

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