Tuesday, 26 March, 2019

Malta allows 49 migrants stranded off coast since December to disembark

Le navire de sauvetage Sea Watch 3 près des côtes maltaises le 4 janvier 2019.                  REUTERS  Darrin Zammit Lupi Le navire de sauvetage Sea Watch 3 près des côtes maltaises le 4 janvier 2019. REUTERS Darrin Zammit Lupi
Patty Aguilar | 10 January, 2019, 17:33

Malta will take in the 49 migrants stranded on two humanitarian rescue ships since last month, said Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Wednesday at a press conference.

For this reason, the agreement allows for the migrants to be transported by military ships to Malta, before being transferred on to Luxembourg, Germany, France, Netherlands, Ireland, Italy Portugal and Romania.

The Netherlands is one of eight countries which will take in some of the 32 migrants who have been living on a boat since they were rescued from off the coast of Libya almost three weeks ago.

Of the 49 stuck at sea, 32 were rescued by the German vessel Sea Watch 3 on December 22, while the other 17 were picked up by Dutch boat Sea Eye on December 29.

"After 19 days at sea, our guests finally have a safe haven", Sea-Watch tweeted. "This represents a confession of state failure, policy must not be made at the expense of people in distress".

While Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has been involved in efforts to broker an agreement and Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio had called for Italy to take in all women and children on board, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini - who is also a deputy prime minister - repeated his assertion that no migrants would be allowed to land, accusing the European Union of "giving in to the blackmail of people smugglers and NGOs" and saying he had not been consulted about the deal.

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Celebrations aboard the Sea Watch on Wednesday.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said Wednesday that "the past weeks have not been Europe's finest hour".

The migrants have been stranded off the coast of Malta on the Sea-Watch and another boat since late previous year, with no country allowing them to dock, suffering sea sickness and dehydration, with some briefly refusing food.

"Whether it's eight or 88, I'm not authorizing anyone to enter Italy", Salvini told reporters in Poland, during a visit to his allies in the right-wing populist government there.

Amnesty International's Southern Europe researcher Elisa De Pieri said the time taken to reach a decision on the migrants' fate was "shameful".

The 49 migrants were on two ships refused permission to dock by both Italy and Malta.

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