The Malta Independent 14 December 2018, Friday

Updated (7): MV Lifeline - Five nations accept to take migrants, diplomatic efforts continue

Tuesday, 26 June 2018, 10:42 Last update: about 7 months ago

Portugal has offered to take in some of the more than 200 migrants aboard a rescue ship which has been idling for days in the Mediterranean Sea without a port to pull into.

The center-left Socialist government says it will know how many people it will accept from the ship operated by German group Mission Lifeline if the ship docks in Malta, a destination Italy's premier announced on Tuesday. Portuguese Internal Administration Minister Eduardo Cabrita tells lawmakers that migrants on the ship will be assigned to "several countries" in the European Union.

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Earlier, the Maltese government said four nations had accepted to take a number of migrants who are currently stranded on board the MV Lifeline 25 miles off Malta.

It is understood that these four countries are Malta, France, Italy and Spain. 

"The diplomatic effort by the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat as well as the European institutions is leading to an ad hoc agreement to distribute the migrants on board the MV Lifeline amongst a number of willing member states," the statement said.

"Four member states have already confirmed their participation, while another two are evaluating the case," the government said in a statement issued at 4pm.

In the case that the vessel enters Maltese ports, there shall be investigations and possible action taken in regards to the MV Lifeline, which ignored instructions given in accordance to international rules by the Italian authorities, which led to this situation, the statement said.

In a tweet, Mission Lifeline said it had been told that it does not yet have permission to enter Maltese waters.

 

Rai Uno said on Tueday evening that a Malta goverment spokesman said that the government is still to decide which port the ship would berth at, if allowed to enter the country.

Italy is pushing for the migrants to be brought to Malta, with both Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini indicating that this is a victory for Italy.

But Malta is still to officially allow the ship to berth, and has imposed a number of conditions, including the distribution of the migrants among six countries.

A first official statement issued this morning at around 11am said Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has over the past 48 hours led a diplomatic effort to try to find a solution for the case of the MV Lifeline, which was caused by the actions of its captain who ignored instructions given in accordance with international rules by the Italian authorities. The efforts by Malta are without prejudice to Malta’s position at international law.

"This effort has two facets: the first is to prevent escalation into a humanitarian crisis by means of the sharing of responsibility by a number of willing member states.

"The second is to carry out investigations and explore actions that can be taken with regard to the actions of the said vessel.

"The Government of Malta would like to thank the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission for their assistance in this effort, which is ongoing," the statement said.

Although the government stopped short of saying it will allow the ship to dock in Malta, and no final decision on this has been taken, this statement is taken to mean that if the conditions are met, the Maltese government could allow the ship to enter Malta.

Following this announcement, Spain's prime minister said his country is prepared to be part of a European response to the plight of a German-operated migrant aid ship, but isn't specifying whether it will allow the vessel to dock. Italy Premier Conte also said Italy will take some of the migrants aboard German rescue ship stranded off Malta.

Earlier this month, Spain took in 630 migrants from the French aid ship Aquarius after Malta and Italy refused it access. A similar situation has now arisen with a ship operated by the German aid group Mission Lifeline, which has been stuck off Malta since Thursday with 234 migrants aboard.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was asked during a visit to Berlin Tuesday whether Spain would offer safe harbour. He replied that "Spain will be in the common answer that we give, in this case, to the Lifeline ship but it has to be common, it has to be European, it has to be from various countries."

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte also says Italy will take some of the migrants onboard the rescue ship run by the German group Mission Lifeline.

Conte said in a statement Tuesday that he made the pledge in a call to Muscat. He added that he hoped that other EU countries would follow suit.

Conte was reported to have said that the vessel will dock in Malta while Italian Home Minister Matteo Salvini also said that the vessel will not be taken to Italy, but to Malta. But no final decision has been taken.

Mission Lifeline welcomed the news of the development as can be seen in below tweet.

The ship has been stranded off Malta for nearly five days after picking up the migrants in the Libya rescue zone between Libya and Lampedusa. Both Italy and Malta refused to let it in.

The possible solution to the standoff was discussed on Monday between French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, spokesman Benjamin Griveaux was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"A European solution may be to have the ship dock in Malta. It is the solution that seems to be shaping up at the moment," Griveaux told RTL radio without elaborating.

"France would then be ready to send a team there to study individual (asylum) requests," he said.

A sick passenger was evacuated to Malta from the Lifeline on Monday-Tuesday night by an AFM launch.

 

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