Malta, Libya sign search and rescue agreement
Malta and Libya have signed a long-awaited memorandum of understanding on search and rescue, the Maltese Foreign Ministry said Friday night.
There has been a steady increase in tragedies caused by boatloads of African immigrants leaving Libya's shores en route to Europe, dpa reported.
The memorandum of understanding is inspired by the desire of Malta and Libya to further promote friendly relations between the two countries and the necessity of improving the safety of life at sea in the Mediterranean basin, the ministry said.
The agreement also seeks to establish adequate and effective arrangements for search and rescue services. Both sides also agreed to authorize their Rescue Coordination Centre to request assistance via each other's rescue centres and to provide all information on the distress situation in their respective search and rescue region.
Relations between the two neighbouring countries have been traditionally warm, though the situation was sometimes jittery in recent years amid Maltese accusations that Libya was not doing enough to help with the situation of illegal immigration. Malta says its rescue teams are too stretched to deal with the extent of the problem.
During a visit to Malta last week, European Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot called for the EU's border patrols to be brought closer to Libyan shores.