Updated at 12.30pm
A group of 52 migrants rescued by the MV Lifeline has left for France, the prime minister revealed on Thursday.
The group forms part of an ad hoc agreement struck between nine countries after 233 migrants landed in Malta after a six-day sea ordeal sparked by Italy.
"Responsibility sharing and returns are possible and can be done in a humane and effective manner," Joseph Muscat said in a tweet.
First group of persons from #Lifeline left #Malta for #France as part of ad hoc agreement between 9 countries. Responsibility sharing and returns are possible and can be done in a humane and effective manner -JM @EU_Commission @FranceinMalta pic.twitter.com/P5AWqd88Nq— Joseph Muscat (@JosephMuscat_JM) July 5, 2018
The migrants are to be shared by France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and Malta. This process is ongoing, and more migrants will be leaving Malta in the coming days, the government confirmed later on Thursday.
The migrants were assessed by the French immigration authorities before arrangements were made for their departure to Paris.
Commenting after the departure of the migrants this morning, the French Ambassador to Malta, Beatrice Le Frapper Du Hellen, said that this was an example of leadership by two heads of state, Joseph Muscat and Emmanuel Macron, who have reached a humane solution.
“This is the kind of solution we have to find in Europe, through solidarity and burden-sharing. But it is also about giving migrants adequate care and attention as human beings, which they received while in Malta,” she said.
The migrant rescue, which sparked another EU migration crisis, are undergoing a preliminary assessment at a reception centre, following which the distribution of "genuine asylum seekers" will start immediately, the Maltese government had said in a statement.
Malta and Italy had criticised the German captain for having picked up the migrants in Libyan waters in defiance of orders for the migrants to be transferred to the Libyan coastguard.
The captain will face court again later on Thursday charged with using the boat in Maltese waters without proper registration or license.