Reports say a merchant vessel, known as the Elhiblu cargo ship has been hijacked by a group of migrants who were rescued off the coast of Libya, ordering the crew to head towards Malta.

More than 100 migrants aboard the cargo ship are said to have resorted to hijacking the vessel after being told they would be taken back to Libya.

Maltese armed forces said the ship would not be allowed in its waters.

Libyan coastguard has so far made no public comments on the reported hijacking.

Spokesperson of the Malta military says that effort to communicate with the cargo ship have been unsuccessful, however they have been monitoring the situation and are prepared for any eventuality.

Deputy Prime Minister PM Matteo Salvini described the hijackers as pirates.

“They are not shipwrecked, they are pirates, and they will only see Italy through a telescope,” said PM Salvini on his Facebook page.

This event comes after the EU makes its decision on ending navy patrols in the Mediterranean.

Operation Sophia rescuing stranded migrants

The EU says the decision to suspend Operation Sophia in September follows a request by Italy.

The mission was put in place to rescue migrants as well to curb human traffickers and smugglers into Europe by boat.

Tens of thousands have been saved by the operation.

Recently, the mission mainly targeted smuggling networks as the number of people making the crossing dropped, following a controversial deal between EU and Libya.

But Mr Salvini, the leader of the right-wing League party, has blamed Operation Sophia for continuing to bring rescued migrants to Italian shores.

-BBC