Boat with 356 Migrants Docks in Malta as 6 Countries Accept to Welcome them

Friday, 23 August, 2019 - 12:00
Asharq Al-Awsat

France said Friday it will take 150 of the 356 migrants disembarking from a humanitarian ship in the Mediterranean Sea after six European countries agreed to accept all of them.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner tweeted that the 150 will be welcomed in France "in the coming days."

He added: "Together, we managed to build a European solution."

The Norwegian-flagged rescue ship Ocean Viking, with a stated passenger capacity of around 200, picked up the people in four rescue efforts off Libya from Aug. 9-12.

The migrants are being disembarked in Malta from the vessel and distributed to France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania.

Requests for a safe port were previously denied by Malta and ignored by Italy, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee, the two charities running the ship.

MSF welcomed Malta's decision to take ashore the migrants rescued. But the group also questioned why it took so long, calling for permanent European solutions.

Jay Berger, operations manager for Doctors Without Borders on board the Ocean Viking, said: "We are relieved that the long ordeal for the 356 people on board with us if finally over but was it necessary to keep them waiting for two weeks of torment?"

In a statement, he added: "This is about people who have fled desperate conditions in their homelands and have survived the horrific violence in Libya."

He said once the rescued migrants have left the ship, the Ocean Viking will continue with its mission after restocking supplies and refueling.

The European Union also welcomed Malta's decision and the pledges made by the European countries to welcome the migrants.

EU Migration Commissioner Dmitris Avramopoulos said in a statement that "these commitments must now be honored and materialized swiftly."

The EU's border and asylum agencies will help screen people before they are relocated.

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