Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addresses a press conference at his office in Valletta Malta
10 January, 2019, 17:33
Following the deal, Matteo Salvini, deputy prime minister and also leader of the far-right party the League, said Italy should not take any migrants from Malta.
A migrant, part of a group of 49, reacts towards the media as he and others disembark from one of Malta's AFM Protector-class coastal patrol boats.
While Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has been involved in efforts to broker an agreement and Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio had called for Italy to take in all women and children on board, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini - who is also a deputy prime minister - repeated his assertion that no migrants would be allowed to land, accusing the European Union of "giving in to the blackmail of people smugglers and NGOs" and saying he had not been consulted about the deal.
Joseph Muscat, prime minister of Malta, announced the details that end the deadlock that began when 32 people were rescued by the Dutch-flagged humanitarian rescue ship "Sea-Watch 3" on 22 December.
The Netherlands, Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg and Italy have offered to take in the group, which includes six minors, three of whom were travelling alone.
The migrants have been stranded off the coast of Malta on the Sea-Watch and another boat since late past year, with no country allowing them to dock, suffering sea sickness and dehydration, with some briefly refusing food.
Another 78 will be allowed to stay in Malta, while 44 Bangladeshi migrants will be repatriated.
In a tweet, Sea Watch International said: "The EU chose to release their 49 hostages".
Muscat, who has previously complained that his country has to bear an unfair share of migrant numbers, insisted Malta had "never closed its ports and it is still a safe port".
The migrants will be transferred to Maltese military ships that will bring them ashore.
Italy's populist government split over the fate of those aboard Sea-Watch 3 and another private vessel, Sea-Eye, with Premier Giuseppe Conte saying that Italy was willing to take children and their parents, even as Mr Salvini remained defiant.
"It is a testament to state failure; politics should never be played at the cost of people in need."
"To give in to pressure and threats from Europe and NGOs is a sign of weakness that Italians don't deserve", he added.
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