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    Rescued migrants on the deck of an Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) patrol boat reach out for bottles of water being distributed by a soldier in a biohazard suit after arriving at the AFM's Maritime Squadron base at Haywharf in Valletta's Marsamxett Harbour, January 22, 2015

    Malta Navy Saves North African Migrants Lost at Sea, 20 Already Feared Dead

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    A boat loaded with approximately 85 migrants has been picked up by a Maltese patrol off the coast of Malta; around 100 had boarded the boat but many have perished.

    MOSCOW, January 22 (Sputnik) – A dinghy loaded with approximately 85 migrants has been intercepted and rescued by an Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) patrol on Thursday off the coast of the country, the Times of Malta reports.

    At least 20 of the migrants, who claim to be from central Africa, are feared dead. The boat was found in distress, the newspaper says, and the migrants appeared to have been at sea for many days.

    Along with southern Italy, Malta is one of the main points of arrival for migrants attempting the crossing from North Africa into Europe, Reuters reports.

    Their point of departure has not yet been established.

    The rescue is the first in several months, the Times of Malta reports. It comes at a time when the number of migrants in detention has slipped to a low of just 29. At one time there were over 2,000.

    According to Reuters, an Italian coastguard vessel picked up a separate boat carrying around 70 migrants off the coast of Libya on Thursday.

    Arrivals from North Africa have slowed in recent months with more coming on larger cargo ships from Syria, the agency says.

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