Published: Fri, January 11, 2019
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

EC Highlights Malta's Allowance to Receive Rescued Migrants

EC Highlights Malta's Allowance to Receive Rescued Migrants

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the NGO vessels will have to leave Maltese territorial waters after transfering the people to the AFM patrol boat.

Malta had refused to allow the rescue ships to dock, saying it was not the nearest port of call and that taking responsibility for the migrants was beyond the remit of the EU's smallest member state.

Malta now cleared the way for them to disembark.

The 49 migrants, including a baby and several children, were rescued while attempting to make the treacherous Mediterranean crossing from North Africa to Europe.

The deal, announced by Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, breaks a stalemate that began after 32 were rescued by a German aid group's vessel on December 22.

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.

Mr Muscat also said that a decision on the fate of 249 rescued migrants already in Malta has also been agreed.

Priority will be given to vulnerable people including women and children, according to EU Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos, who welcomed Italy's cooperation but said that a system was needed to avoid such emergency solutions in future.

A further 44 Bangledishi migrants which had been rescued by Malta will be deported to their home country in an operation that will be coordinated by European Union authorities.

Sea-Watch said that the migrants finally have a "safe haven" after three weeks at sea.

The migrants will go to eight countries including France, Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands.

"This represents a confession of state failure, policy must not be made at the expense of people in distress", the NGO said.

The numbers reaching Spain have surged as Italy's crackdowns on private rescue vessels caused the number of boats and migrants heading across the central Mediterranean toward Italian shores to drop sharply.

"To give in to the pressures and the threats of Europe and NGOs is a signal of weakness that Italians don't deserve", he added, a possible jab at Conte and the leader of the 5-Star Movement. European Union border agency Frontex says about 57,000 migrant crossings were detected a year ago in Spain, twice as many as during 2017.

Spanish police say they have broken up a gang that smuggled people and drugs by boat from Morocco into Spain, charging migrants up to 2,000 euros ($2,300) a trip.

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