Migrants onboard Alan Kurdi to be brought to Malta and relocated to other EU states

European member states will also take half of the migrants rescued by the AFM in another operation as a 'sign of recognition of the Maltese government's goodwill' • Three migrants in need of medical attention to be evacuated immediately

The Alan Kurdi has 65 migrants on board
The Alan Kurdi has 65 migrants on board

Migrants onboard the NGO-operated rescue vessel Alan Kurdi will be brought to Malta and relocated to other European Union member states, the government said on Sunday.

“Following discussions with the European Commission and the German government, the Maltese goverment will transfer 65 rescued immigrants on board the ship Alan Kurdi operated by the NGO Sea Watch to an Armed Forces of Malta asset which will then enter a Maltese port. 

“All the rescued persons on board will be immediately relocated to other European Union member states. None of the said immigrants will remain in Malta as this case was not under the responsibility of the Maltese authorities,” the government said.

It added that three perons on board who are in need of medical attention would be evacuated immediately. The NGO said earlier that three people were receiving acute medical assistance after collapsing in the heat.  

Moreoever the Maltese government said that “an agreement was reached whereby as a sign of recognition to the goodwill of the Maltese government, European Union member states will also take at least half of the 58 migrants rescued in a separate operation by the Armed Forces of Malta, in a case under the responsibility of the Maltese authorities”.

The Alan Kurdi arrived off Maltese territorial waters on Sunday after changing course from Lampedusa to Malta.

The ship operated by German NGO Sea-Eye rescued the migrants on Friday off the Libyan coast and refused instructions from the Libyan coast guard to take them to a port in Libya. The north African state is not deemed to be a place of safety by the UN as internal conflict rages.

The vessel was not granted permission to enter Maltese territorial waters.

The decision to allow the migrants to enter came shortly after a spokesperson for the NGO said that those on board were in need of medical assistance. The spokesperson said the NGO hoped to have constructive discussions with the Maltese government for the migrants to be distributed among EU states.

On Saturday evening Sea-Eye said the Alan Kurdi changed course to Malta after having been informed by the Italian coast guard that they could not dock at Lampedusa.

"It is inacceptable that people in need have to be in life-threatening danger once again before we can bring them to a safe port," Gorden Isler, head of mission on the Alan Kurdi said. "We saved the people from death and now we should be punished for it," he continued.

He was referring to the case involving the Italian sailing ship Alex which declared a state of emergency on board and entered the port of Lamedpusa under maritime emergency law. The 18-metre-long sailing ship had saved 54 people from a rubber dinghy on Thursday evening.

The Alan Kurdi changed course to Malta after it was refused entry into Lampedusa
The Alan Kurdi changed course to Malta after it was refused entry into Lampedusa

Isler said the Italian government was prepared to hold the rescued people on ships until their lives are in danger.

"We support the efforts of our sea rescue colleagues who have brought the people ashore in Italy. The decision to go to Lampedusa was the right one... It is now time for us to free Europe from the captivity by the Italian Minister of the Interior. If the heads of state and governments are serious about their criticism of the Italian interior minister, they can let us enter in Malta. Both, the rescuees and the crew could land there safely. German Interior Minister Seehofer could promise at short notice to take in the rescued persons and distribute them to some of the supportive communities that have already agreed to take them in," Isler continued.

He said Malta was the nearest safe haven.

Overnight in Lampedusa, another NGO vessel, the Alex, was allowed to disembark the 46 migrants still on board. Italian authorities have impounded the vessel.

Italy has enacted harsh laws to prevent NGO rescue vessels from entering its waters to disembark migrants under a hard-line policy pushed by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.

Only last week, scores of migrants held in a detention centre in Libya were killed after it was bombed.