The Malta Independent 21 April 2019, Sunday

Aquarius’ 58 migrants disembarked from AFM’s P52

Sunday, 30 September 2018, 10:55 Last update: about 8 months ago

A total of 58 migrants who were transferred from the MV Aquarius to the Armed Forces of Malta's P52 vessel have disembarked in Malta.

The P52 vessel entered Hay Wharf Base at around 2pm.

The government said in a statement this afternoon that, "All migrants who disembarked in Malta will be transferred to four other European countries in the next days. The Government of Malta has participated in this effort on purely humanitarian grounds and without prejudice to its position on SAR activities, which remain unchanged. The MV Aquarius has been deflagged and is expected to proceed to a port in France to rectify its stateless position."

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The governments of France and Malta on Tuesday took a joint initiative to solve the current impasse with regard to the situation of MV Aquarius.

The 58 persons on board MV Aquarius disembarked onto a Maltese asset in international waters, were taken to Malta, and are to be immediately redistributed to another four European Union member states. 

Malta and France are two of five European Union countries struck a deal Tuesday to distribute between them 58 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea and left stranded by continuing disagreements in the bloc over how to cope with the influx of people trying to enter illegally from North Africa. Spain, Portugal and Germany are the other three nations.

The breakthrough came after days of uncertainty, with EU countries either reluctant to act on the divisive migrant issue or determined to halt the migrant flow. Humanitarian boats loaded with rescued migrants are increasingly shunted between European governments under political pressure to stem newcomers.

All the migrants from the Aquarius 2 rescue ship will disembark in Malta, and Spain will take 15 of the passengers, according to the official. Earlier, Portugal had said it would take 10 of the migrants. The other EU countries did not immediately specify how many they would accept.

Malta said it would send a military boat to take the migrants to shore, before they proceed to the other European countries.

Because the ship had its Panama registration flag removed earlier, it will sail to its home port in Marseille, France, to "rectify its stateless position" after the migrants disembark, the Maltese government said in a statement.

Humanitarian groups SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders operate Aquarius 2. It is the sole private rescue boat operating near the deadly central Mediterranean human trafficking route, and Panama's decision to remove its registration threatened to put it out of action.

 

Panama's maritime authority said it made the move after Italy's anti-migrant leaders complained the boat's captain failed to follow orders. It said Italy argues the captain of Aquarius 2 defied instructions to return migrants to Libya that it had rescued from unseaworthy vessels launched by Libyan-based traffickers.

But the humanitarian groups say violence-wracked Libya doesn't meet international standards for safe harbour.


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