Migrants on board Ocean Viking to disembark in Malta

All 356 people on board the ship will be redistributed among several EU member states after talks between European Commission, France, Germany and Malta

A rescued person on board the Ocean Viking makes the love sign after migrants were informed of the ad hoc agreement between several EU states
A rescued person on board the Ocean Viking makes the love sign after migrants were informed of the ad hoc agreement between several EU states

All 356 migrants on the Ocean Viking will be brought to Malta but none will stay after a redistribution agreement was reached between several EU states.

The agreement was announced by the Maltese government on Friday.

The migrants were rescued in different operations off the Libyan coast and have been on the ship for two weeks after Italy and Malta refused them entry.

The Ocean Viking is operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders.

In a statement the government of Malta said: “Following discussions with the European Commission and a number of member states, namely France and Germany, Malta has agreed to be part of the solution in the Ocean Viking stalemate, without prejudice to its legal position.”

The Maltese government said none of the rescue operations happened in Malta’s area of competence or under the direction of the Maltese authorities.
The Ocean Viking will not enter territorial waters and the people will be transferred to a patrol boat of the Armed Forces of Malta.

“All the said migrants will be relocated to other member states: France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania.  None of the said migrants will remain in Malta,” the government said.

The government insisted that more persons who had disembarked in Malta under previous ad hoc arrangements will be transferred to other member states in fulfilment of their pledges.

“Malta is committed to being a proactive member of the EU, being part of pragmatic solutions that do not put undue pressure on one single member state,” the government said.

Malta's efforts to broker a solution were praised by European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, who urged all parts to honour their commitments "swiftly".

NGO rescue vessels have been at the centre of ongoing controversy for the past year after Italy adopted a closed ports policy. Malta has followed suit on those occasions where rescues happened outside its area of competence.

The EU has failed to adopt a common approach on migration, leaving frontline states like Italy and Malta to face the brunt of migration flows from Libya.

The redistribution of migrants has been happening on the basis of ad hoc agreements between member states.

NGOs have been clamouring for a more permanent disembarkation and redistribution mechanism to prevent lengthy stalemates that have seen rescued people spending weeks at sea in limbo until solutions are found.

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