EU nations in deal on stranded migrants

Malta has reached a deal with eight EU countries to divide up and take in 49 migrants stranded at sea for weeks.

PM Joseph Muscat named them as Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy.

The deal means the 49 migrants, who have been stranded on charity-run boats amid a row over who would take them, can now disembark in Malta.

The deal also decides the future of another 249 rescued migrants already in the island nation.

The 49 migrants were on two ships refused permission to dock by both Italy and Malta.

Thirty-two people were picked up off Libya on 22 December by the Dutch-registered vessel Sea Watch 3, operated by a German humanitarian group, while the Sea-Eye – a second ship run by a different German charity – rescued another 17 people on 29 December.

The situation on board both ships was said in recent days to be deteriorating, with food and water running short.

Pope Francis, at the weekend, appealed to European leaders to show “concrete solidarity” and give the migrants “a safe port”.

Mr Muscat welcomed the show of “solidarity and understanding” shown by the European Union nations, and said the transfer of migrants to the eight other countries would begin as soon as possible.

He again defended his decision to refuse to let the ships dock, although Malta had allowed them to enter its waters for supplies and to shelter from bad weather. BBC

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