UPDATE (2): PM Muscat reaches agreement with Italian PM on the 450 migrants
The 450 migrants who in the past days were at the centre of another issue between Malta and Italy, will be possibly redistributed between various countries.
Sources close to the Italian Government were quoted by the ANSA agency saying that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was holding contacts so that other European countries will take some of the migrants. In a letter to the leaders of the European Union, Conte argued that Italy cannot shoulder alone the burden of a problem which affects the whole of the EU.
On this issue, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat stated that he spoke with the Italian Prime Minister following the latter’s request for solidarity with Italy, and confirmed that Malta will be participating in a redistribution initiative of the migrants.
Earlier, the 450 migrants who on Friday were at the centre of another issue between Malta and Italy, were transferred on two rescue vessels, while eight women and children were taken by the Italian Guardia Costiera to Lampedusa due to health reasons.
A total of 176 migrants were taken on board the Protector vessel, which is being operated under the Frontex mission, and 266 were transferred to the Guardia di Finanza ‘Monte Sperone’ vessel.
This development occurred following comments by Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, and Transport Minister, Danilo Toninelli, that Malta should have taken the migrants and received them at its ports.
The Italian authorities stated that the migrants’ boat was identified when it was still in waters under Malta’s responsibility for rescue purposes. They said that Malta sent air assistance, however did not send any vessel and had requested Italy to intervene. Meanwhile, the migrants’ boat had then entered in Italian waters.
On its part, the Maltese Government maintained that is was observing its obligations according to international rules. In a statement, the Interior and National Security Ministry stated that when it was informed of the boat, this had just crossed from Libya’s rescue waters to those of the Maltese.
At that time, the boat was 53 nautical miles away from Lampedusa and 110 nautical miles away from Malta. When the persons on board the boat were contacted, they replied that they desired to continue with the voyage towards Italy. As they were in international waters, the Maltese authorities could not oblige them to change direction, so they monitored the boat until it entered in Italian waters.
Meanwhile, it was report a short while ago that Minister Salvini is insisting with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that the migrants should be taken towards Malta or Libya so that Italy confronts traffickers and creates a reaction by the European Union.
Dgħajsa b’450 immigrant abbord – l-Italja tgħid li tinsab fl-ibħra Maltin u trid tidħol Malta