Five people aboard NGO rescue ship Alan Kurdi will be brought to Malta and then relocated “immediately” to two EU member states, the Maltese government said on Tuesday.

The relocation deal was negotiated following discussions with the European Commission and was put into place after Sea-Eye, the NGO which operates the Alan Kurdi, agreed to drop a judicial protest it filed against Malta last week.

All five people have been caught at sea for more than a week, with crew members aboard the Alan Kurdi warning that their psychological state was steadily deteriorating to the point where many were contemplating suicide.

"We are extremely happy that Malta finally took responsibility which they were denying for 11 days," a Sea-Eye spokesman told Times of Malta.

"We wish all the people we saved all the best for their future. They are looking forward to feeling dry land under their feet again after 12 days on the Mediterranean".

A prolonged standoff

The Alan Kurdi had rescued 13 people off Libya early in September. Maltese authorities evacuated individuals from the ship in three separate missions over the past week, following medical assessments which reported people attempting to jump overboard in desperation.

Sea-Eye has accused Maltese authorities of abdicating their responsibility to offer the rescued people safe harbour, and last week filed a judicial protest calling on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to allow the rescued people to shore.

The Maltese government statement announcing the relocation deal did not name the two countries which have agreed to take in the five people.

“Malta remains committed to take pragmatic decisions for European solutions which ensure a fair balance between responsibility and solidarity,” the government said.