Ireland to receive migrants after Malta agreement

Migrants stand on the deck of the migrant search and rescue ship Sea Watch 3

Migrants stand on the deck of the migrant search and rescue ship Sea Watch 3

Germany, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, and Italy agreed to share 224 migrants, with Malta taking 74.

Thirty-two people were picked up off Libya on 22 December by the Dutch-registered vessel Sea Watch 3, operated by a German humanitarian group, while the Sea-Eye - a second ship run by a different German charity - rescued another 17 people on 29 December.

Mr Muscat welcomed the show of "solidarity and understanding" shown by the European Union nations, and said the transfer of migrants to the eight other countries would begin as soon as possible.

"An ad hoc agreement has been reached", Mr Muscat told journalists, adding that it also included a decision on the fate of 249 rescued migrants already in Malta.

Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter stressed in Berlin Wednesday that the move for European Union countries to share out numerous 249 migrants already rescued by Maltese military ships - plus 49 who have been stranded aboard private rescue vessels - is "an ad hoc decision. for the current situation".

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.

Celebrations aboard the Sea Watch on Wednesday.

The migrants have been stranded off the coast of Malta on two boats since late past year, with some suffering from dehydration and seasickness.

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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. "After 19 days at sea, our guests will finally reach a safe port".

Malta will take in 78 of the 298 migrants itself.

The migrants will be transferred to Maltese military ships that will bring them ashore.

Thanking civil society for its support, Sea Watch commented: "Disembarkation can not be subject to negotiations between states at the expense of people".

However, Malta has reached an agreement with some European Union member states to allow the 49 migrants on board to disembark.

Salvini told reporters during a visit to Poland Wednesday he "absolutely" opposes new migrant arrivals in Italy, clashing with his own premier on the issue.

Some 113,482 migrants crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe previous year, according to the United Nations refugee agency, which said 2,262 people lost their lives or went missing making the perilous journey.

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