40 migrants on rescue ship off to Malta; 123 others in limbo

August 04, 2019 - 7:38 am

MILAN (AP) — Forty migrants rescued off the coast of Libya were successfully transferred Sunday to Maltese military boats and brought to port, the German rescue group Sea-Eye said, ending another standoff with the European Union over the fate of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea.

Sea-Eye posted photos on Twitter showing the migrants being handed over to the Maltese military. An earlier video showed the migrants cheering at the news that they would be transferred first to Malta, then to other EU countries.

Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced Saturday on Twitter that the small EU nation would allow the 40 migrants aboard the Alan Kurdi to disembark after a request from Germany. He said the EU commission had organized their transfer to other EU nations.

The Alan Kurdi had headed toward Malta after Italy again refused to open its ports to a humanitarian rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea.

German Interior Minister Horse Seehofer said Malta "is sending an important signal of solidarity," ahead of a meeting planned next month in Malta in which the interior ministers from Germany, France, Italy and Malta hope to come up with a way to deal with EU migrant arrivals by sea and avoid repeated standoffs.

Open Arms, another rescue ship operated by a Spanish aid group, remained at sea Sunday with 123 migrants who were rescued Friday in two operations in the central Mediterranean. The aid group said many showed signs of having suffered violence in Libya and that Italy has threatened to fine it 50,000 euros ($56,000) if it enters Italy's national waters.

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