VALLETTA (Reuters) - A group of 40 migrants rescued by a German charity ship landed in Malta on Sunday and will be taken care off by other European Union member states following a deal negotiated by Germany.
The 40 people were rescued on Wednesday from a small boat off the Libyan coast by NGO Sea Eye’s ship Alan Kurdi. The NGO sailed then to southern Italy, saying the port of Lampedusa was the closest and safest harbour.
On the same day, Italy’s right-wing interior minister Matteo Salvini announced the ship would be banned from Italian waters.
Late on Saturday, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced a deal had been reached with the European Commission, following a request by Germany.
“Malta will allow 40 migrants on board the German vessel Alan Kurdi to transfer to a Malta Armed Forces asset and enter port,” Muscat said in a tweet. “No migrant will remain in Malta.”
Sea Eye said on Wednesday the Libyan coastguard advised the Alan Kurdi ship to land in Libya, but the NGO refused.
“We will obey international law and will not bring anyone back to a civil war country,” Sea Eye said in a tweet. “Libya is not safe!”
Salvini, who is also Italy’s deputy prime minister, has staked much of his political credibility on a drive to halt migrant flows.
Shutting Italian ports to charity rescue ships has become a frequent strategy in the past year to try to force the EU’s hand over dealing with migrants.
Reporting by Christopher Scicluna; Editing by Juliette Jabkhiro and Angus MacSwan