Italy's deputy premier slams EU migrant deal - 1/9/2019 6:53:41 AM

Italy to take in some of Sea Watch migrants as part of international deal

Instead, the arrangement called for the 49 migrants transferred to military vessels and then brought to the island nation.

Malta allowed the two ships to shelter in port from a storm on Thursday, but it refused to let the migrants disembark.

The 49 migrants, including a baby and several children, were rescued while attempting the unsafe Mediterranean crossing from North Africa to Europe.

On Tuesday, Germany said it was willing to take in 50 migrants as long as other European countries also helped out, and the Netherlands also indicated it was willing to welcome some.

The deal, announced by Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, breaks a stalemate that began after 32 were rescued by a German aid group's vessel on December 22.

Joseph Muscat, prime minister of Malta, announced the details that end the deadlock that began when 32 people were rescued by the Dutch-flagged humanitarian rescue ship "Sea-Watch 3" on 22 December.

The deal announced on Wednesday meets his condition - most of the 249 migrants, rescued from Libya-based smugglers' unseaworthy boats, will be taken to other European Union countries, while some will remain in Malta.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said Wednesday that "the past weeks have not been Europe's finest hour".

They have been forced to stay on the ships as European countries, including Italy and Malta, refused to accept them.

Celebrations aboard the Sea Watch on Wednesday
Celebrations aboard the Sea Watch on Wednesday

"This represents a confession of state failure, policy must not be made at the expense of people in distress", the NGO said.

Amnesty International's Southern Europe researcher Elisa De Pieri said the time taken to reach a decision on the migrants' fate was "shameful".

Malta has announced that it will allow two ships, stranded for weeks with 49 migrants and refugees on board, to dock.

Many people have been heading to Europe from Africa and the Middle East across the Mediterranean in a flight from poverty or armed conflict.

European Union rules oblige countries where migrants first land to process any asylum claims, placing a heavy burden on Mediterranean states like Italy, Greece, Spain and Malta. Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte offered to take in some of Malta's migrants, saying there was a limit to the policy of "rigour".

The vast majority of the total of nearly 300 migrants will be shared among Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Italy and Malta, Muscat said.

Police in Spain said Wednesday they broke up a gang that allegedly smuggled people and drugs on boats from Morocco and charged migrants up to 2,000 euros ($2,300) a trip.

The European Union's border agency Frontex says about 57,000 migrant crossings were detected previous year in Spain, double the figure for 2017.

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