Migrants can disembark in Malta


Malta will let five Tunisian migrants stranded on the migrant rescue ship Alan Kurdi disembark after two European Union countries agreed to take them in, the Maltese government said.

The five are part of a group of 13 rescued off Tunisia last month. Eight have already been transferred to Malta for medical reasons, with some attempting suicide, according to the ship’s crew.

Malta, like Italy, refused the charity boat entry to its waters.

The vessel is operated by the German NGO Sea Eye, which filed a protest against the Malta government in a Maltese court. It said Malta had a duty to take in the migrants because they were picked up in its search and rescue zone.

Government has not yet responded to the case and said it had been dropped by Sea Eye.

“Malta agreed to be part of a European solution to solve the impasse by offering disembarkation after NGO Sea-Eye dropped the judicial protest against Malta,” it said in a statement.

It did not say which countries would take the migrants.

Migrants recently rescued by NGO rescue ships and brought to Malta pending transfer to other countries, scaled wire walls and unfurled banners demanding ‘freedom’ and ‘humanity’ at a detention centre.

They protested they had been detained for several weeks with no indication of release.

Some 356 migrants picked up by the rescue ship Ocean Viking were brought to Malta on August 23 and are due to go to France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania.

The ship spent two weeks at sea before the deal was agreed. Malta said two groups were transferred to France and Germany, but gave no numbers.

Katrine Camilleri, a lawyer working for immigration NGOs, said 800 migrants were being held at the Safi detention centre, near Malta airport.

“The centre is under strain. It is at full capacity,” she said. “The worst is the migrants don’t understand what is happening. They are told on arrival they are there for a medical check and weeks later they are still waiting to be released.”