Updated | Malta to help Italian-led migrant relocation effort

Despite an agreement for the relocation of some of the 450 migrants, the two patrol boats carrying them have not yet been given disembarkation orders and have been provided with more supplies • Germany to take 50 migrants

Malta has agreed to take some of the 450 migrants that were onboard a fishing vessel that left the Libyan coast (File Photo)
Malta has agreed to take some of the 450 migrants that were onboard a fishing vessel that left the Libyan coast (File Photo)

Italian authorities have provided supplies to two patrol boats carrying 450 migrants between them, and which are currently awaiting disembarkation orders outside the port of Pozzallo in Sicily.

In a tweet, Italian Home Affairs minister Matteo Salvini said that women and children would be allowed to disembark and "kept safe".

"For all the others, the same policy we have followed so far remains," Salvini wrote. "Our future goal is for these people, especially the women and children, to not leave [Libya] and not die any longer."

On Saturday Malta and France both pledged to each receive 50 migrants of the 450 on board two vessels after they were transferred from a fishing vessel they were traveling on after departing from Libya. A spokesperson for the German government confirmed that Germany would also be taking in 50 of the migrants onboard.

A third standoff between Malta and Italy looked to be on the cards on Friday after Italian Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini said that the vessel would not find refuge in Italy, and insisted that Malta should be the country to take responsibility for the vessel.

But a breakthrough appeared to have been made on Saturday, when it was announced that Malta and France would each be taking a share of the migrants after they were disembarked in Italy.

In a statement, the government said that Malta would be participating in an Italian-led initiative to relocate a number of migrants who were on the fishing vessel.

It said that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had held a phone conversation with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, in which Muscat reiterated that “consistent with its policy of not only advocating but also offering solidarity, Malta would assist in this case, which will disembark in Italy”.

READ MORE: Fishing boat with 450 migrants is now in Italian SAR

The government said the initiative followed a similar initiative taken by Malta to resolve the MV Lifeline case. In that case, nine countries, including Italy, had stepped up and agreed to share 234 migrants.

“The actions of the Maltese government are without prejudice to the undisputed fact that it acted in conformity with international rules also in this case,” it said.

In a tweet on Saturday evening, Salvini welcomed the agreement as good news.

“Of the 450 migrants on two ships off the Italian coast, France and Malta have agreed to take 50 each, and other countries will do the same.”  

Proactiva Open Arms resumes missions

Meanwhile the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms has said it was resuming missions within the Libyan search and rescue area, despite Italy's decision to close its ports. Two of its vessels, the Open Arms and the Astral, were in the vicinity of Sardegna, sailing towards Libyan waters on Sunday afternoon. 

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