A group of 50 people who were rescued at sea and stranded on a livestock transport ship has been allowed to disembark in Malta. The MV Talia picked up the migrants off Libya on Saturday but Malta and Italy refused them permission to land.
Malta finally allowed the 50 migrants to disembark from the
Talia on Tuesday night after they had spent four days onboard the animal cargo
ship. Two people had been evacuated to Malta for medical treatment on Sunday. The group includes 12 women and 38 men.
The MV Talia had rescued the migrants off the coast of Libya
and tried to take them to the nearest port on the Italian island of Lampedusa
but was refused entry.
The captain, Mohammad Shaaban, pleaded with Maltese authorities to let the migrants ashore, saying they were living in dirty conditions on a ship intended for cattle.
Shaaban explained that he had just unloaded the cattle in Libya and there had been no time to clean the ship before he picked up the migrants. Because of rough seas, the migrants had to remain below deck among cattle excrement.
The migrants, most of whom are from Somalia, were short of food and water and needed medical care, he said.
Malta demands fair distribution
Malta had been refusing to allow migrants rescued in the Mediterranean to land without redistribution agreements with the European Union. The government says its reception facilities for asylum seekers are full and it has already taken more than its fair share of migrants.
Italy and Malta also refused entry to rescued migrants during the coronavirus pandemic, declaring that their ports were unsafe.
During April and May, Malta chartered tourist boats to hold more than 400 migrants outside its territorial waters. The migrants were brought ashore last month after the situation became unsustainable.
According to a report in Malta Today, the government revealed Monday that the offshore detention operation had cost €1.7 million.
It also announced that it had reached an agreement with a number of European countries to relocate more than 280 migrants currently in Malta.
The prime minister, Robert Abela, who met with the EU’s foreign minister, Josep Borrell, repeated his call for a European distribution mechanism that would kick in automatically rather than being based on ad hoc agreements.