A total of 111 migrants rescued outside Maltese waters remain on board their rescue destroyer the Spanish Admiral Juan de Borbon, which is under Nato command, as the situation remains unresolved.

The migrants, rescued on Sunday morning, were being brought to Malta but Malta refused them entry arguing that since the rescue had taken place close to other countries, they should have been taken there.

The government confirmed this evening there have been no developments since yesterday when Malta asked Nato for explanations.

The migrants were rescued 78 nautical miles away from Tunisia, 88 nautical miles from Lampedusa and 141 nautical miles from Malta.

Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici said yesterday that was only informed of the decision that the migrants were being brought to Malta 18 hours after the rescue and when the Spanish ship was just 40 nautical miles from the island.

Malta asked the Nato command in Naples why the immigrants were being brought here and whether similar requests for disembarkation were submitted to Tunisia and Italy. No replies have as yet been received by the Maltese government.

The Spanish Government said late yesterday that the destroyer never received instructions from Nato to go to any particular country.

It is currently just outside Maltese waters.

According to Spanish media it is awaiting instructions from the alliance for the disembarkation of those rescued.

The migrants were rescued after the engine of the boat they were in failed. A tug boat's crew tried to render assistance but were unable to repair the engine.

Malta's rescue coordination centre issued a notice of ships in distress and assets on site were obliged to assist.

A baby and a pregnant woman were evacuated from the ship and brought to Malta for medical treatment on Wednesday and yesterday. But Army commander Brigadier Martin Xuereb said the warship had medical facilities on board and the migrants are safe.

Dr Mifsud Bonnici said he discussed the issue with his Spanish counterpart and told him that the ship's "unilateral decision was strange".

There has been no communication with Italy.

The minister insisted this was not a stand-off with Spain or Italy but Malta, as a sovereign state demanded respect.

Earlier, media reports quoted a Nato spokesman saying that following Sunday's rescue the Ghanaian, Tunisian and Libyan migrants were on Monday transferred onto the warship in accordance with the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) protocol.

The reports also claimed the warship proceeded to Lampedusa but the Italian authorities refused it entry and directed the vessel to Malta.

Dr Mifsud Bonnici said Malta had no information that Italy had refused the disembarkation of the migrants.

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