Italy never fulfilled its pledge to take 50 migrants from Malta, the Times of Malta is informed, undermining Rome's political posturing as it continues to lash out at EU States for failing to do their part in relieving arrivals.

Migration sources have hit back at Italy's right-wing Deputy Prime Minister, Matteo Salvini, who singled out Malta, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Ireland for not taking the migrants they promised to absorb from a boat of 450 that landed in Pozzallo last month.

“Italy should stop naming and shaming countries when it is the one which is often holding up the process,” said a source, speaking on condition on anonymity.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had promised Joseph Muscat that Italy would accept 50 of the migrants rescued in the MV Lifeline stand-off last June.

The Maltese authorities were surprised to learn shortly afterwards that Italy dispatched officials to interview 27 of the migrants who had arrived in Malta with the intention of taking 25 – and not 50 – to Rome, according to the sources. Yet, more than two months later, the migrants remain in Malta’s detention centres after Italy never followed up on the process.

Italy is the one which is often holding up the process

When a group of 450 migrants arrived in Pozzallo within days, Malta initially reciprocated Italy's sign of goodwill, saying it would take the same number of migrants pledged by Rome. But the process stalled as it became apparent that Italy was not planning to follow up on its pledge, the sources said.

Migrants wait to disembark from the Italian coast guard vessel Diciotti at the port of Catania, Sicily. Photo: ReutersMigrants wait to disembark from the Italian coast guard vessel Diciotti at the port of Catania, Sicily. Photo: Reuters

Again, Italy had initially offered to take a group of migrants who arrived on board the Aquarius on August 15 but, once again, the offer was never followed up.

The sources claimed Italy was not facilitating the process to en-able the transfer of saved migrants to other countries. “Malta wanted to send interviewers to transfer migrants to the island but it never got a reply. They still have not started the fingerprints process, for example,” they added.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Thursday his party would vote to suspend funding to the European Union next year unless other States agreed to take in migrants being held on a coastguard ship in Sicily.

The European Commission said repeatedly this week it was working to find an agreement.

Efforts to get a comment from the Italian ambassador in Malta proved futile.