Thursday, 24 January, 2019

Ireland to receive migrants after Malta agreement

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
Jeannette Daniel | 09 January, 2019, 22:41

Malta has reached a deal with eight European Union countries to divide up and take in 49 migrants stranded at sea for weeks.

The eight countries that will take them in include Italy, whose anti-migrant interior minister, Matteo Salvini, had vowed for days that none would reach Italian soil.

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. Another German charity, Sea-Eye, rescued 17 others on December 29.

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

Volunteers have been bringing drinking water, couscous, fruit and vegetables to the boats.

Early in the stalemate, Mr Muscat had also struck a defiant note, saying his tiny island nation would not let the 49 people set foot on Malta unless the deal included an agreement for fellow European Union countries to take numerous 249 migrants who Maltese military ships had rescued in its search-and-rescue area in late December.

He said that of the total of 298 migrants, 176 would be sent to Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy.

The Director of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders in Ireland, Sam Taylor, said that it is "commendable to see Ireland once again offering to resettle some of the vulnerable people rescued at sea".

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Malta said another 78 migrants would be allowed to stay in Malta, and 44 Bangladeshi migrants would be sent back to their country.

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.

Pope Francis, at the weekend, appealed to European leaders to show "concrete solidarity" and give the migrants "a safe port". "If human values and solidarity are not upheld, then it is not Europe", said European Union migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

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

"The migrants will be transferred ship to ship", the government's press officer told Euronews.

But EU members have failed to agree on a permanent mechanism to relocate migrants who reach Europe's shores, even though arrivals have dropped sharply since a peak more than three years ago.

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

"Giving in to pressure and threats by Europe and the NGOs is a sign of weakness that Italians do not deserve", he tweeted.

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