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April 14, 2019

Rescued migrants allowed to disembark in Malta: PM


April 14, 2019

VALLETTA: Dozens of migrants stuck on a ship since their rescue in the Mediterranean 10 days ago, will be allowed to disembark in Malta after four European countries agreed to take them in, Malta’s prime minister said on Saturday.

All 62 migrants on the Alan Kurdi ship "will be disembarked and redistributed between #Germany, #France, #Portugal and #Luxembourg," Joseph Muscat announced on Twitter.

"None will remain in Malta which cannot shoulder this burden alone," he added.

On Friday, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said Paris and other EU partners would "show solidarity" towards the migrants, who include 12 women and two children aged one and six.

The group was rescued on April 3 from a barely seaworthy vessel off Libya, and brought to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

But hardline Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refused them entry, and said Berlin should take the migrants as they had been rescued by Sea Eye, a German NGO.

"It’s their problem, they must deal with it," Salvini said, adding he had personally written to the ship’s captain to warn the vessel must "not enter Italian territorial waters."

On Saturday, Salvini, of the far-right League party, expressed pleasure at the outcome.

"As promised, no immigrant from this German NGO (ship) will arrive in Italy. They will go to Germany or elsewhere," he tweeted.

"The Maltese are right to denounce the danger of the NGO’s -- we stand beside them in the fight against human traffickers," added Salvini, who last month insisted Italian ports would be closed to migrant rescue NGOs operating in the Mediterranean in a bid to force other EU states to take them in.

Valleta expressed frustration at being caught in the middle. "Once again, the European Union’s smallest state has been put under pointless pressure in being tasked with resolving an issue which was not its responsibility," the Maltese government complained in a statement.

Last week, two of the women -- one of whom is pregnant -- turned down an offer to leave the ship with the children unless their husbands were allowed to join them.

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