Friday, 18 January, 2019

Malta to let stranded asylum seekers disembark ahead of redistribution in EU

A migrant child aboard the Sea Watch vessel A migrant child aboard the Sea Watch vessel
Melinda Barton | 10 January, 2019, 17:32

The other countries are Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg and Netherlands.

A mother and a child disembark from a patrol boat in Malta.

The Sea-Watch 3, a vessel run by a German humanitarian group, rescued 32 people from an unsafe boat off the coast of Libya on 22 December.

Seventeen people on board another ship and 249 rescued migrants already in Malta will also be divided up between the eight countries as part of the deal, Malta said.

Pope Francis, at the weekend, appealed to European leaders to show "concrete solidarity" and give the migrants "a safe port".

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte has said that if Italy takes about 15 rescued migrant children and their parents that wouldn't "stain" the country's crackdown on accepting migrants rescued by private aid vessels.

He again defended his decision to refuse to let the ships dock, although Malta had allowed them to enter its waters for supplies and to shelter from bad weather.

European Union rules oblige countries where migrants first land to process any asylum claims, placing a heavy burden on Mediterranean states like Italy, Greece, Spain and Malta.

"Malta is a very small country and it is in our nature to assist those in distress, but as Prime Minister I can not shirk the responsibility of safeguarding our national security and national interest".

Alter said eight countries have now indicated their willingness to take in the migrants but talks are ongoing with more.

"I am and will remain absolutely against new arrivals in Italy".

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

"To give in to pressure and threats from Europe and NGOs is a sign of weakness that Italians don't deserve", he added.