The Netherlands to take in some Sea Watch migrants under Maltese deal

Frederick Owens
January 11, 2019

Italian police say they have broken up a migrant-smuggling ring allegedly organized by Tunisian extremists.

Earlier this week, Sea-Watch said some of those aboard were distraught about the stalemate, which left the boat at the mercy of rough seas for many days. One man formed the shape of a heart with his hands as he stepped off a Maltese military boat.

"The head of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (FCEI), Luca Maria Negro, said in a press release, shortly after Malta's announcement: "[FCEI] has told the Interior Minister we are available to welcome some of the refugees from Sea-Watch who are arriving in our country.

Thirty-two migrants were rescued on December 22 and 17 more on December 29 from unseaworthy smugglers' boats.

Muscat said the ad hoc deal illustrated anew that the European Union needs a comprehensive policy on migrants who are rescued while trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. He said that Germany still aims to reach "a long-term and sustainable mechanism".

Resources on the island of 450,000 are being "stretched" by the migrants already in detention centres.

Eight European countries, including Luxembourg, will receive the 49 migrants rescued about two weeks ago and remain at sea off Malta, under an agreement announced on Wednesday by the Maltese government. In addition, the countries will also take in numerous 249 migrants already in Malta.

"I am and remain absolutely against any new arrivals in Italy", Mr Salvini said on Twitter.

Celebrations aboard the Sea Watch on Wednesday
Celebrations aboard the Sea Watch on Wednesday

The call has been shared by Italy's protestant community, with evangelicals offering to take in some of the migrants.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said Wednesday that "the past weeks have not been Europe's finest hour".

European Union rules oblige countries where migrants first land to process any asylum claims, placing a heavy burden on Mediterranean states like Italy, Greece, Spain and Malta.

As part of the deal, the eight countries will also accept 131 of 249 migrants previously rescued by Malta.

Another German charity, Sea-Eye, rescued 17 others a week later on 29 December.

Both Italy and Malta have refused to let private rescue ships bring migrants to their shores.

"The operation to transfer the migrants onto AFM vessels will start as soon as possible, after which the NGO boats will be asked to leave our waters immediately".

Muscat said the immigrants will be transferred from Malta to the eight countries.

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