Malta: Gunshot victims found in boat from Libya

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Malta on Thursday rescued 290 migrants arriving from Libya, including three people with gunshot wounds and four others suffering from fatigue and sun stroke who were drifting in and out of consciousness.

The seven were flown to hospital by the Maltese maritime squadron, while the others were ferried on several patrol boats, an army spokesman said.

It is understood that the three gunshot victims were already wounded when they left Libya and their health had deteriorated during the voyage.

Official sources said an initial probe indicated the migrants “were shot as they fled a detention camp in Libya and could be almost 10 days old”.

They did not give further details on what type of detention center the three were fleeing from and what countries they could be from.

Most of the boat people leaving Libya are migrant workers from other parts of Africa.

The migrants were on an overcrowded dinghy that was taking on water and was found some 56 nautical miles (104 kilometers, 64 miles) south of Malta.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said he expected the European Union to show its solidarity and help Malta deal with the influx of migrants.

Malta “will be using all legitimate means at the European Council” to express its lack of satisfaction with the present system, he said.

“Our policy is to be compassionate with the weak, but strong with the politicians,” Muscat said.

Meanwhile another migrant boat carrying around 100 people was intercepted by the Italian coast guard and taken to the port of Syracuse in southeastern Sicily.

The passengers are believed to be Syrians who began their crossing in Egypt.

Italy has seen a sharp increase in arrivals of economic migrants and refugees in recent weeks.

Nearly 8,000 boat people have arrived in Italy since the start of the year -- double the number from last year over the same period.

Nearly 400 migrants arrived on three boats on Wednesday alone, just days ahead of a scheduled visit by Pope Francis to the tiny island of Lampedusa -- a major gateway for undocumented immigration into the European Union.