The 49 asylum seekers who have been stranded at sea for the past 19 days will be redistributed to eight other EU countries, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced this morning.
In a press conference, Muscat confirmed that Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy have agreed to take in the migrants that had been rescued by the NGO vessels Sea Watch 3 and Prof. Albrecht Penck.
Moreover, these eight member states also agreed to relocate 131 asylum seekers which Malta’s armed forces had rescued from Maltese waters in recent weeks. A further 44 Bangledishi migrants which had been rescued by Malta will be deported to their home country in an operation that will be coordinated by EU authorities.
“I personally thank the European Commission for coordinating this major effort,” Muscat said. “It’s very reassuring that it understands our concerns and the it took a leadership role in this regard. The operation to transfer the migrants onto AFM vessels will start as soon as possible, after which the NGO boats will be asked to leave our waters immediately.”
“Malta is a very small country and it is in our nature to assist those in distress, but as Prime Minister I cannot shirk the responsibility of safeguarding our national security and national interest. As I have insisted, this case will not act as a precedent and I have been given reassurances that we will have the support of EU institutions in this regard.”