A group of 40 migrants rescued by a German charity ship have landed in Malta and will be taken care of by other EU member states after a deal negotiated by Berlin.
The 40 people were rescued on Wednesday from a small boat off the Libyan coast by the ship Alan Kurdi, which belongs to the NGO Sea-Eye. The NGO then sailed them to southern Italy, saying the port of Lampedusa was the closest and safest harbour.
On the same day, Italy’s rightwing interior minister, Matteo Salvini, announced the ship would be banned from Italian waters.
Late on Saturday, the Maltese prime minister, Joseph Muscat, announced a deal had been reached with the European commission following a request by Germany, leading to their arrival on Sunday.
“Malta will allow 40 migrants onboard the German vessel Alan Kurdi to transfer to a Malta armed forces asset and enter port,” Muscat tweeted. “No migrant will remain in Malta.”
Sea-Eye said on Wednesday the Libyan coastguard had advised the Alan Kurdi to land in Libya, but the NGO refused.
“We will obey international law and will not bring anyone back to a civil war country,” Sea-Eye tweeted. “Libya is not safe!”
Salvini, who is also Italy’s deputy prime minister, has staked much of his political credibility on a drive to halt migrant flows. Shutting Italian ports to charity rescue ships has become a frequent strategy in the past year to try to force the EU’s hand over dealing with migrants.