The two-week blockade of the rescue ship "ocean viking" on the mediterranean sea with 356 migrants on board has come to an end. Malta will first take in the people before distributing them to other EU states, head of government joseph muscat tweeted on friday.
Besides germany and france, portugal, romania, luxembourg and ireland want to take in migrants. "No one will stay in malta," muscat stressed.
Germany wants to participate "together with france in a significant amount," a spokesman for the federal ministry of the interior said in response to a question. He was referring to both the "ocean viking" and the migrants of the "open arms" that recently landed in italy.
The "ocean viking", the ship of the aid organizations SOS mediterranee and arzte ohne grenzen, had rescued the people off the coast of libya two weeks ago. Shortly, the crew had raised the alarm that the food supply was running out. On friday afternoon the ship was between the small italian island of linosa and malta.
The release for the ocean viking caused many to breathe a sigh of relief. Jay berger, head of operations for doctors without borders on the ocean viking, said: "we are relieved that the long ordeal for the 356 people on board is finally over." Eu interior commissioner dimitris avramopoulos buried the news from valletta. He praised the maltese authorities and the other six countries for their solidarity.
However, just as great as the relief was the incomprehension of many people. "While some EU states are finally responding with humanity to this humanitarian catastrophe in the mediterranean, what is needed now is a predictable distribution mechanism," demanded doctors without borders. SOS mediterranee also stressed that the unnecessary suffering of the people on board could be avoided.
However, the EU states have not been able to agree on a long-term solution for months now. For the beginning of september, a meeting of some EU countries was actually planned in malta. However, this will probably be postponed for a few weeks.
Rescue ships of aid organizations with migrants on board had recently been repeatedly blocked on the sea, sometimes for weeks at a time. The outgoing populist government in italy and especially the right-wing interior minister matteo salvini had largely closed the country’s ports to ships. Malta has also been insisting for months that other EU countries agree to accept all migrants before ships are allowed into maltese ports.
The current solution was reached after discussions with the EU commission, germany and france, said a statement from the government in valletta. The migrants were now transferred to military ships and then brought ashore. France’s interior minister christophe castaner announced on twitter that his country was taking in 150 people.
Germany, france, ireland, portugal and luxembourg were recently always among those states that took part in a breakaway. Malta, too, had repeatedly declared its willingness to take in migrants until they were distributed among other states.
According to the ministry of the interior, since july last year germany has been prepared to take in 328 people rescued from distress at sea and to process their asylum applications, 212 of them in the current year. A total of 186 of these people have already been brought to germany, 97 of them this year. The number of migrants taken in by the "open arms" and the "ocean viking" is not included in this figure.
However, it is already foreseeable that the next blocked rescue ship will not be long in coming. Berger of doctors without borders announced that the "ocean viking" will now first call at a port to refuel, load good and change the crew. And also the italian NGO mediterranea saving humans announced to have set sail again with its ship.
The spanish ship "open arms", whose oddyssey came to a dramatic end after almost three weeks on wednesday night, will have to stay on land for the time being. The italian coastguard said that an inspection of the vessel had revealed "serious irregularities".