A group of around 70 migrants were brought to Malta after being rescued to the south of the island on Monday night following a distress call, a spokesperson from the Home Affairs Ministry said.

The spokesperson gave no further details, including the nationalities of the illegal migrants, the Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.

The migrants were swabbed for Covid-19 upon arrival on land and were escorted to a detention centre where they will be kept in isolation until the authorities investigate their provenance and whether they are entitled to asylum, the spokesperson said.

Migrant departures from North African shores have increased significantly in recent days, possibly owing to the arrival of good weather.

Alarm Phone, an NGO that monitors rescue calls from migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean, said on Monday that there were over 400 migrants in five boats in Malta’s search and rescue zone.

Last September, Prime Minister Robert Abela warned European Council President Charles Michel during a meeting here that Malta is at its full capacity and cannot take any more migrants.

Malta insists that member states on Europe’s southern border cannot be left alone to deal with the problem created by illegal migration. It contends that other EU countries have to share the burden.

Last summer, Malta resorted to housing migrants on tourist boats outside Maltese territorial waters in a standoff with other European countries which dragged on for more than a month.

–IANS

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