Malta announces deal on migrants stranded on Sea-Eye ship

The Maltese government said on Saturday that more than 60 migrants stranded at sea for more than a week on the German rescue ship would be taken in by four EU countries after a deal was reached with the European Commission.

“Through the coordination of the European Commission, with the cooperation of Malta, the migrants on board the NGO vessel Alan Kurdi will be redistributed among four EU states: Germany, France, Portugal and Luxembourg,” a government statement said.

“None of the migrants will remain in Malta,” the government said, adding that the “smallest member of the European Union” could not “keep shouldering” the burden of taking in migrants.

It said the German-flagged ship would not be allowed to enter its ports. Instead, the rescued migrants are being brought to Malta on Maltese vessels before being transferred to the other countries.

Denied landing permission

The Alan Kurdi rescue vessel, named after a three-year-old Syrian refugee boy who drowned in 2015 while trying to reach Europe with his parents, is run by the German nongovernmental organization Sea-Eye. The migrants were rescued near Libya on April 3 but were denied permission to land in Malta or Italy.

Initially, 64 migrants were rescued, but two women were taken to Malta for medical treatment. Sea-Eye said that one crew member was also transferred to Malta overnight with symptoms of exhaustion. The two countries have taken a hard line on migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa in an attempt to enter Europe.

Malta has refused to allow migrant rescue ships into its ports, arguing that their operations off Libya serve to encourage human traffickers.