NGO vessel declines Malta's offer to take in 39 migrants, insists all on board be allowed disembarkation

Maltese government says it is only responsible for 39 migrants rescued in Malta's search and rescue area, not for the other 121 the NGO vessel took on board last week

The humanitarian vessel Open Arms is carrying 160 rescue people, 39 of whom were taken on board in the early hours of Saturday
The humanitarian vessel Open Arms is carrying 160 rescue people, 39 of whom were taken on board in the early hours of Saturday

The migrant rescue organisation Open Arms has turned down Malta's offer to take in 39 people who were rescued from the sea by the NGO's ship in the early hours of Saturday, the government said.

Open Arms said it was not ready to accept that Malta take in only the last group of migrants, and not also another group of 121 people it had rescued last week who are also on its ship.

The government said that an operation by the Armed Forces of Malta to rescue the 39 migrants, who found themselves in distress in the Maltese search and rescue area, had already been under way.

However, Open Arms had instead rescued the migrants itself overnight. The 39 joined the other 121 migrants who the NGO had rescued nine days earlier.

"Malta has offered to transfer these 39 migrants aboard an AFM vessel and disembark them in Malta since these were rescued in an area of Malta’s responsibility and coordinated by RCC Malta," the government said in a statement today.

"Nevertheless, Open Arms is refusing to do so and is insisting that Malta also takes another 121 migrants who were intercepted in an area where Malta is neither responsible nor the competent coordinating authority. Malta can only shoulder its own responsibility since other solutions are not forthcoming."

The Spanish NGO clearly did not see eye-to-eye with the government on the issue, writing on Twitter that it was unacceptable that Malta take on only 39 migrants and leave the other 121 on board its ship.

Open Arms went on to lament that Malta's offer had "generated serious security problems" on board the ship.

On Saturday afternoon, Open Arms reiterated on Twitter that “for now” they couldn’t accept Malta’s offer “for reasons of strict security”.

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