Posted on March 28, 2019 by Ilias Kiritsis
Turkish tanker, EL HIBLU 1 was hijacked by migrants while transiting off the coast of Libya on March the 26th.
The El Hiblu was en route from Turkey to Tripoli, Libya when it was diverted in order to rescue over 100 distressed migrants that had been stranded on a boat off the Libyan coast.
Having picked up the migrants, the vessel continued sailing to Tripoli.
However, as the ship came closer to Libya, all communication with the vessel was lost. The last message from the tanker’s Captain was “We’re in pirates’ hands”.
On March the 28th, the vessel was spotted sailing in Maltese waters, albeit at reduced speed.
Reportedly, Maltese authorities have been unable to establish contact with the vessel and have sent military forces to the hijacked tanker.
“We received reports of a pirated ship heading towards Malta or Lampedusa and we’re monitoring the situation,” a Maltese Coastguard spokesman said in a statement.
Later in the day, the tanker was secured by the Maltese Navy and was brought to the safe port of Valletta.
According to Maltese authorities, 77 of the ship's 108 rescued refugees were men, another 19 were women, and the remaining 12 were children.
Italy’s Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini has gone on record to suggest that this was an act of pirates, and not migrants.
“These are not migrants in distress, they are pirates, they will only see Italy through a telescope. Poor castaways, who hijack a merchant ship that saved them because they want to decide the route of the cruise,” Salvini said in a statement to the press.
This event comes in the back of the EU’s decision to suspend operation Sophia. Following harsh resistance from Rome, the EU will no longer patrol the Mediterranean in order to rescue refugees who attempt to cross into European territory.