14 August 2019






2 mins

On Thursday 8th August 1991, an estimated of 10,000 Albanian nationals aboard several ships forced their way into the port of Bari in the south east of Italy and approximately 1,000 into the port of Otranto..

Things were changing in Albania in 1991 and not for the better. Elections left the communist backed Labour Party of Albania in power but a coalition government was soon formed and decades of communism gave way to a new outlook. With change came social unrest and Albania imploded with everything was closed throughout the whole country, the economy collapsed, factories were closing and no future was seen.

Mass departures from Adriatic ports followed and huge crowds gathered to board overcrowded ships. 675 Albanians aboard two Albanian state owned ships DURRESI and LIRIJA who tried unsuccessfully to land at ports in Sicily, were diverted to Malta and anchored at St. Paul’s Bay. Following images are of DURRESI –

In fact 18 individuals stood up to form the Malta Red Cross in response to the exodus that hit the Maltese shores helping the Government Health Department. Officially the Malta Red Cross was established on the 24th October 1991 and by Act of Parliament it was recognised as an autonomous voluntary Relief Society auxiliary to the Public Authorities and allowed to carry out its activities in the Maltese islands in accordance with the rules and principles of the International Red Cross movement. Prime Minister of Malta Dr. Eddie Fenech Adami was present at Xemxija with High Officials including AFM Commander Brigadier John Spiteri and the Minister of Education and the Interior Dr Ugo Mifsud Bonnici.

Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) 9H-AAF Agusta Bell 47G-2 armed with floats with various patrol craft in the area –

And Below the LIRIJA –

Both ships were being escorted by AFM and provisions via 2 Maltese offshore vessels SEA SERV III and SEA SERV 201

Photos by Capt. Lawrence Dalli. Do not use these images without my permission. © All rights reserved. Malta Ship Photos & Action Photos –

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© All rights reserved. Malta Ship Photos & Action Photos –