Luxembourg accepts some of 49 migrants stranded at sea

Pauline Gross
January 11, 2019

"An ad hoc agreement has been reached", Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told journalists, adding that the deal also included a decision on the fate of 249 rescued migrants already on the island.

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

Earlier this week, Sea-Watch said some of those aboard were distraught about the stalemate, which left the boat at the mercy of rough seas for many days.

A migrant, part of a group of 49, reacts towards the media as he and others disembark from one of Malta's AFM Protector-class coastal patrol boats.

The deal, announced by Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Wednesday, will see European Union countries including Italy take in 49 migrants stranded aboard private rescue ships since last month.

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.

Malta last week allowed the boats to shelter near its coasts from the bad weather but would not let them disembark the migrants.

But Italy's coalition government remains starkly divided over the issue.

"Malta is a very small country", he said.

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

But Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, of the right-wing League party, said the decision by the European Union countries was "facilitating the work of smugglers and NGOs".

At EU headquarters in Brussels, "they pretend to not understand and facilitate the work of (migrant) smugglers and NGOs", Salvini said. "Giving in to the pressures and threats of Europe and NGOs is a sign of weakness".

Salvini was in Warsaw on Wednesday for meetings with officials from Poland's government, which refused to accept any of the 49 migrants.

Muscat said the immigrants will be transferred from Malta to the eight countries.

Many people have been heading to Europe from Africa and the Middle East across the Mediterranean in a flight from poverty or armed conflict.

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.

The number of migrants reaching Spain by sea has surged amid Italy's refusal to let private rescue vessels into its ports.

Frances D'Emilio reported from Rome.

Other reports by GizPress

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