Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has announced on Twitter that six EU member states have agreed to take in 356 migrants from the NGO ship, Ocean Viking.
Muscat said that the migrants, who have been stranded at sea for the past two weeks, will be taken to Malta then relocated to France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania.
The Maltese PM wrote on Twitter, “None will remain in Malta.”
The resolution to the standoff came after talks with the European Commission and the member states.
A statement issued by the Maltese Government read as follows:
“Malta has agreed to be part of the solution in the Ocean Viking stalemate, without prejudice to its legal position.”
The Norwegian-flagged ship, run by French charities SOS Mediterraee and Mèdecins Sans Frontières, was stranded between Malta and the Italian islands of Sicily and Lampedusa for 14 days, after it was denied entry by Malta and Italy.
The standoff was the result of Italian Interior Minister and anti-migrant League leader Matteo Salvini’s closed port policy.
Meanwhile, SOS Mediterraee Director of Operations, Frédéric Penard, expressed his disappointment at how the governments of EU member states responded to the standoff:
“The role Malta, other Member States and the European Commission have had in leading this disembarkation into a place of safety shows cooperation is possible to avoid unnecessary standoffs in the central Mediterranean.
“We hope that the ad hoc solution implemented today will transform into the predictable and sustainable disembarkation mechanism promised many times by several European Union Member States.”
Dimitris Avrampoulous, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship welcomed the solution to the stranded migrants on board Ocean Viking. He also commended the six EU member states, PM Muscat and the Maltese government. Avrampoulous tweeted the following message:
“Welcome that a solution for the persons aboard #OceanViking has been found and that all will be relocated. Commend @MaltaGov and @JosephMuscat_JM for solidarity and European approach. Praise France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania, who agreed to relocate. These commitments must now be honored swiftly.”