Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Malta prime minister says deal reached for 49 migrants to disembark

39;Sea-Eye' docked in Malta in December 39;Sea-Eye' docked in Malta in December
Ellis Copeland | 11 January, 2019, 17:49

Malta has been pushing other European countries to take in around 250 migrants now in its care before it would allow the two rescue boats to disembark.

Under the same deal, many of some 249 migrants Malta said its military boats picked up last month also will be transferred to other countries.

In a tweet, Sea Watch International said: "The EU made a decision to release their 49 hostages".

There were ecstatic cheers on board the Sea-Watch 3 when a crew member told them "we have a safe port, it's over", according to a video tweeted by the German NGO Sea Watch International.

The agreement calls for 131 to be relocated to other European Union nations, 74 to remain in Malta and to have European Union experts review the circumstances of 44 migrants from Bangladesh before their destinations are decided.

The other countries in Wednesday deal are France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg and Netherlands.

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

In the meantime, those aboard the Sea Watch and Sea Eye - who include a baby and several children - were celebrating the end of 19 days at sea.

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The migrants arrived in Malta on Wednesday afternoon after being transferred from the Sea-Watch 3 and Dutch-flagged Albrecht Penck ships to Maltese coastguard vessels.

He underlined that Europe can not count "on disorganised, ad hoc solutions" to manage such cases, and he called for the long-stalled reform of European Union asylum rules to be concluded.

"We want to express our gratitude to. all cities, federal states and provinces that declared their ports open and their willingness to welcome people".

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.

Salvini, who is also interior minister, leads the right-wing, anti-migrant League, one of two coalition parties in Italy's populist government.

"I am and I will remain absolutely against new [migrant] arrivals in Italy", he said on Twitter.

"Caving to the pressures and threats of Europe and the non-governmental organisations is a sign of weakness that Italians don't deserve".

Despite that, Italy - an effective gateway to Europe for migrants and refugees - maintains its stance of rejecting migrants in principle.

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