Updated at 8.50pm
Forty migrants rescued by a German NGO vessel will be allowed in to Malta and then redistributed among EU member states, a government spokesman told Times of Malta late on Saturday.
The Alan Kurdi was given permission to disembark its rescued passengers after the German government and European Commission stepped in to coordinate a redistribution deal.
No details about the deal were immediately available, but a spokesman at the Office of the Prime Minister clarified that none of the migrants aboard the vessel would remain in Malta.
Migrants will be taken on board an Armed Forces of Malta vessel outside Maltese territorial waters.
The Alan Kurdi spent Saturday just outside Maltese waters, having been turned away by Italian authorities at Lampedusa on Friday.
Under international law, the rescued migrants should have been allowed ashore on the small Italian island. However, Italy’s right-wing home affairs minister Matteo Salvini has issued orders barring the ship from entering Italian waters.
A public plea
Earlier on Saturday, the NGO made a public plea to Maltese authorities.
“We are fully aware that the responsibility lies not with Malta but with Italy,” Alan Kurdi head of mission Barbara Held said in a video uploaded to social media on Saturday afternoon.
“Nevertheless, [the rescued migrants] will soon have to go ashore. We cannot maintain this situation forever.
"Malta has already achieved a great deal in recent years by hosting refugees for decades. We hope for a humanitarian solution. We hope that Malta will receive the people and that European states will fulfil their responsibilities".
How the ongoing crisis has panned out
Over the past year, the Muscat government has piloted a series of relocation deals involving a core group of EU member states, as a form of compromise solution to ongoing migrant rescue stand-offs.
The deals, which the Maltese government insists are “ad hoc”, allow NGO vessels to disembark their rescued passengers in Malta, which then relocates most of them among a group of EU member states.
Nevertheless, the Maltese government has also on occasion adopted a hard line towards rescue NGOs. Last June, the government had the captain of one such ship, the MV Lifeline, arrested as soon as the vessel entered Malta.
The captain was eventually let off with a €10,000 fine, with the judge ordering that the money be donated to charitable organisations helping migrants and the poor.
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