After 14 days at sea stranded between Malta and Italy, in the coming hours 356 immigrants on board the vessel Ocean Viking will be brought to Malta by the country’s Armed Forces and will then be relocated to six EU countries. The Government has said that none of the immigrants to be landed will remain in Malta.
The Ocean Viking is operated by SOS Mediterranèe and Médecins Sans Frontières and will not enter Malta’s territorial waters as the immigrants will be transferred to AFM patrol boats.
As a result of Government discussions with the EU Commission the landed immigrants will mainly be relocated to France and Germany while Malta has agreed to cooperate in the solution without prejudicing its legal position.
The Governments of France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania will accept their transfer.
Through an EU spokesperson the EU Commissioner for Immigration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, expressed his satisfaction and had words of praise for Malta for its part in resolving the issue and agreeing to land the immigrants that have been stranded on board the ship for many days.
“I would like to in particular commend the cooperation and support of the Maltese Authorities who have once again, as they have in so many occasions in the past, shown concrete solidarity by offering the Ocean Viking to disembark in Malta. This proves once again the strong commitment of Malta to a European approach on migration in the spirit of solidarity and joint responsibility.”
Médecins Sans Frontières, which participated in the salvage operations, said the 356 immigrants were rescued in four different operations. Over 100 of these immigrants are aged under 18 and 90% of those on board are unaccompanied. There are also three children under the age of five.
In a message on Facebook, Lega Head Matteo Salvini said he had maintained his promise that no permission will be granted for immigrants on board the Norwegian Ocean Viking to be landed in Italy. Salvini said his actions on the control of ports to keep them closed has reduced the numbers of immigrants entering Italy.
Meanwhile in the coming days another group of immigrants landed in Malta earlier will proceed to Germany.
Earlier this week another group of immigrants that the AFM had landed on 7th July and 4th August on board the Alan Kurdi run by the NGO Sea Eye, left Malta to be relocated in France.
The Government said Malta is taking a pro-active stand to find practical solutions in the immigration crisis and maintained that pressure should not all be placed on one country.