Some of the migrants who reached Malta on Wednesday suffered psychological trauma in Libya and, like the ones before them, required protection, sources said.

The 234 migrants stranded at sea for six days were brought to shore after eight EU Member States had agreed to host them.

The captain of the boat was criticised for picking them up in Libyan waters, with both Italy and Malta saying he had violated international law and initially refused to allow the vessel entry. He is being investigated by the police.

When asked by the Times of Malta whether Malta believed Libya provided a safe port for asylum seekers, a government spokesman replied: “Malta follows international rules”.

Sources close to people who spoke to the asylum seekers in Malta told the newspaper the migrants seemed to have been provided with very good care on the MV Lifeline, with the NGO appearing to be well-equipped to support rescued people. Most of the migrants originate from sub-Saharan Africa and the group included unaccompanied minors.

As normally happens in such circumstances, some needed hospital care soon after their arrival.

“Some have been through terrible things in Libya and have psychological issues that have to be dealt with in the longer term.

“They recounted harsh treatment and lack of food during their stay in Libya,” sources noted.

“What we have to be reminded of is that, just like the ones who came before them, these are people who are fleeing terrible conditions in their home country, have been through a very harsh journey and suffered terribly in Libya,” they added.

“These are people who need protection as much as the ones who came before them.”

Libya has emerged as a major transit point to Europe for people fleeing poverty and civil war elsewhere and NGOs have warned that stopping charities from operating rescue ships would mean abandoning migrants to their deaths.

About 100 people are thought to have drowned off Libya on Friday, with the North African country’s coastguard picking up 14 survivors from a boat just east of the capital, Tripoli.

The coastguard also intercepted 200 migrants on two other boats, also east of Tripoli.

The Italian Home Affairs Ministry is reported to have registered just over 11,400 arrivals from Libya this year, more than 80 per cent fewer than during the same period in 2016 and 2017.

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