The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights this morning welcomed the “swift agreement between Malta and Italy” that will uphold the rights of 102 migrants rescued by a tanker late on Monday.

The migrants, included four pregnant women, a woman who was injured and a baby. They were rescued in the Libyan search and rescue area but the tanker proceeded to Malta and was not allowed to enter Maltese waters to disembark the migrants.

“Migrants who have already had the trauma of being rescued at sea should not also suffer the indignity of being pawns in legal disputes,” FRA director Morten Kjaerum said.

“Time and time again we see this happening. International human rights obligations should ensure the rights of rescued migrants are safeguarded and they receive the assistance and support they need. FRA is pleased to see the fast response by Malta and Italy that will allow these migrants to disembark.”

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said it believed that the priority should always be to ensure the safety and well-being of the migrants.

"They should therefore be allowed to receive medical attention and an opportunity to request international protection if so warranted."

It commended the rescue operation carried out by the Salamis and said it shared the view of European Union Commissioner Cecilia Malmström that any dispute about who is responsible for search and rescue should be clarified at a later stage, as the priority must always be to help migrants in distress and in need of immediate assistance.

"While commending the concerted efforts by the international community and the excellent cooperation between Malta and Italy, IOM stands ready to provide support in finding possible solutions for these and other stranded migrants, once the participating states agree an appropriate way forward, based on the principles of burden sharing and solidarity among nations."

The solution was also welcomed by Aditus Foundation, JRS Malta, Migrant’s Network for Equality, SOS Malta, KOPIN, Integra Foundation, Foundation for
Shelter and Support to Migrants, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity and the Emigrants' Commission.

They expressed concern, however, at the length of time it took for the decision to be taken and encouraged all interested and relevant parties to work together to develop concrete initiatives to prevent similar incidents.

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