Updated | Aquarius docks in Malta as processing of 141 migrants on board begins

The vessel had been stranded at sea for four days as Italy, Malta, Tunisia and Spain all refused it entry into their ports

The MV Aquarius has docked in Malta with 141 migrants on board (Photo: Sea-eye/Twitter)
The MV Aquarius has docked in Malta with 141 migrants on board (Photo: Sea-eye/Twitter)

The humanitarian vessel the MV Aquarius, which is currently carrying 141 rescued migrants, docked in Malta on Wednesday afternoon after a four-day standoff between Mediterranean states.

The vessel entered Valletta’s Grand Harbour and made it’s way to Boiler Wharf in Senglea where it was welcomed with music by the crews of other migrant rescue vessels which have been blocked from leaving Maltese ports. The migrants on board the Aquarius could be seen cheering as the vessel entered the harbour.

In a statement following the ships arrival, the government said there were 97 men and 44 women on board, with 12 of the ship's passengers, including two pregnant women and five infants under the age of five, having been taken to Mater Dei Hospital for treatment after disembarkation.

It said the rest of the migrants were escorted to the Marsa Initial Reception Centre where "their needs are being adhered to by the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers".

The claimed nationalities of the immigrants are from Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Egypt, Eritrea, Morocco and Somalia, the government said, adding that their disembarkation had been supervised by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Moreover, the government said that the redistribution of the migrants would be coordinated by Maltese authorities with the assistance of the respective foreign delegations.

The Maltese government announced on Tuesday that the migrants will be allowed to disembark in Malta following discussions between France and Malta, and a number of other European member states.

The talks, held with the support of the European Commission, resulted in an agreement to share the rescued migrants among willing states.

“This morning, the MV Aquarius informed the Maltese authorities that it has accepted the request for disembarkation in the Maltese ports,” the government said in Wednesday morning statement.

It said the Armed Forces of Malta would be assisting with the disembarkation, while health authorities, immigration police and members of the civil protection department, the Agency for Welfare of Asylum Seekers and Transport Malta were overseeing the preparations for the 141 migrants to be brought to Malta.

“Once the immigrants are medically cleared they will be escorted to the reception centre where eventually the distribution process of immigrants amongst France, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain will be initiated.”

In a tweet, Médecins Sans Frontières said that a number of migrants on board had been treated for gunshot wounds, cuts and burns from torture inflicted on them in Libya.

This latest agreement ended of four-day standoff between Italy, Spain, Malta and Tunisia, which all refused the ship entry into their ports.

The migrants were rescued off two wooden boats as they were attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya.

On Monday, Malta also rescued a further 114 persons at sea, 60 of whom will also be distributed among other member states as part of the joint EU cooperation.