France said Friday that it and other EU nations would take in more than 60 migrants stranded on a German rescue ship off Malta which has refused to let them disembark unless other countries help.
Je me suis entretenu avec mon homologue maltais @dr_micfarr.— Christophe Castaner (@CCastaner) April 12, 2019
Je lui ai confirmé que la France, comme l'Allemagne et plusieurs autres partenaires européens, sera solidaire pour l'accueil de réfugiés présents à bord de l'#AlanKurdi, afin de permettre leur débarquement à La Valette.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Twitter he had spoken with his Maltese counterpart about the 64 migrants, including 12 women and a baby, picked up off the Libyan coast on April 3.
"I confirmed that France, like Germany and several other European partners, will show solidarity and welcome the refugees aboard the Alan Kurdi, allowing them to disembark at Valletta," Castaner wrote.
The rescue ship, operated by the German charity Sea-Eye, is the latest to be left adrift off the coast of Europe where governments are increasingly trying to push migrants back towards Africa.
Sea-Eye initially tried to land on the Italian island of Lampedusa but Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini - who has turned away several rescue ships in the past year - rejected the migrants, saying that Berlin should take them instead.
He eventually agreed to let two minors and their mothers disembark, but they refused to do so without the children's fathers, who were not allowed off the ship. The ship then headed for Malta.
Castaner said that officials from the interior ministry and the French refugee agency would be sent to Malta "in the coming hours to facilitate the transfer to France of 20 people needing protection".
In Berlin, an interior ministry spokesman confirmed to AFP that Germany was also "ready to do its part".
France, Spain, Germany and other EU countries have stepped in on several occasions in the past year to take in migrants rejected by either Italy or Malta.
Malta has refused to let rescued migrants land unless it has a commitment from other EU nations that they will immediately take them.
It made an exception for two women who were evacuated to Malta because they were in urgent need of medical attention.
Maltese authorities have also authorised food and water to be delivered to the vessel, which had been forced to ration supplies.
The rescued migrants and 17 crew are all sleeping in a room designed for 20 people. Around a third of those rescued are suffering from sea sickness, Sea-Eye said.
The Alan Kurdi is named after the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach at the height of the European migrant crisis in 2015. Pictures of his lifeless body caused a global outcry over the migrants' plight.
In a statement on Friday, 28 NGO appealed to the Prime Minister to resolve the standoff and urged Malta to allow the disembarkation of the migrants.
They reiterated that Libya could not be considered a safe port of disembarkation and forcibly returning migrants and Libyan nationals there would expose them to torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, discrimination and – in some cases – death.
"Whilst we appreciate the difficulties Malta faces due to Italy’s extreme stance on migration issues, we nonetheless appeal to the Prime Minister to prove that the nation may and will rise above this terrible race to the bottom. We can and must do better," they said.
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