Rescue operation of the Ocean Viking on August 10 | Photo: Anne CHAON / AFP
Rescue operation of the Ocean Viking on August 10 | Photo: Anne CHAON / AFP

France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania have agreed to take in the 356 migrants on board the rescue ship. The ship received permission to disembark the migrants in Malta.

The 356 migrants stranded on board the Ocean Viking charity rescue ship will be taken to Malta and then relocated to other European countries, the Maltese government announced on Friday.

The announcement ends a two-week stalemate in which the charities SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) were refused port entry by EU Mediterranean countries. 

The migrants will be transferred onto Maltese navy boats, taken to Malta and later flown to six other EU member states: France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania.

The deal was struck "following discussions with the European Commission and a number of member states, namely France and Germany," the Maltese government said.

On Thursday, MSF and SOS Mediterranee had warned that food supplies were running low.

Relocations

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner wrote on Twitter that France would welcome 150 of the 356 rescuees "over the coming days."

In a statement released Thursday, the Portuguese government had offered to take in 35 migrants rescued by the Ocean Viking.

The statement said that Portugal was always ready to help, that a comprehensive European solution to the challenge of migration was needed. 

Since last June, Portugal has accepted some 130 people through redistribution deals that followed extended stand-offs between rescue ships and EU governments. 

'The new norm'

While MSF welcomed Malta's decision to take the migrants ashore, the group also criticized that a compromise hadn't been struck sooner. 

European solutions were urgently needed, they said. Jay Berger, operations manager for MSF on the Ocean Viking, said: "We are relieved that the long ordeal for the 356 people on board with us is 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."

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

The ship is carrying mostly African migrants from Sudan, plucked from the sea in four separate missions between August 9-12. They include more than 100 minors, around 90 of them unaccompanied, MSF said. Three children are under the age of five.

In mid-August, a similar group of EU countries had agreed to take in the migrants rescued by the Open Arms ship at the beginning of August. The roughly 150 migrants were allowed to disembark on Lampedusa, Italy, on Tuesday. They are currently in a registration facility on the island. They have not been transferred to the countries that agreed to take them in yet.

With material from dpa, APE

 

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