European Union states agree to share 356 'Ocean Viking' migrants among them

A rescued person on board the Ocean Viking makes the love sign after migrants were informed of the ad hoc agreement between several EU states

A rescued person on board the Ocean Viking makes the love sign after migrants were informed of the ad hoc agreement between several EU states

Two weeks later, and after first refusing coordination, the Maltese Prime Minister announced on 23 August that they would transfer all 356 from the Ocean Viking outside of Maltese territorial waters to Armed Forces of Malta vessel/s and disembark them in Malta.

Jay Berger, MSF's project coordinator, who was onboard the Viking, said: "We are relieved this long ordeal for the 356 people we have on board is finally over".

The resolution to the standoff was found during talks with the European Commission.

The solution comes one day after the French charities SOS Mediterranee and MSF, which jointly operate the vessel, said Malta had denied entry to the ship and that Italy had ignored requests to bring the rescued 356 people ashore.

We understand all of the rescued people will be relocated to other EU Member States: France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania.

Rome had banned entry to private rescue ships, which operate off Libya in global waters close to Italy.

Luca Pigozzi, a doctor on board, said that while most migrants were in a stable physical condition, he feared the impact of psychological damage caused by violence suffered when fleeing their home country. Was it necessary to impose two weeks of excruciating wait for rescued people to be disembarked?

Providing sanctuary to migrants and refugees is now left to the goodwill of member states who come forward as the emergencies unfold.

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In a statement, MSF said while the six countries have "stepped up to give a humane response, European governments must stop these prolonged delays and ad hoc petty negotiations".

Italy had long complained that it was not getting enough European Union support before its far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, shut the country's ports to rescue ships run by aid groups.

"None will remain in Malta", he wrote on Twitter.

France said on Friday it was ready to take in 150 people.

The ship, which had been stranded in worldwide waters between Malta and the southern Italian island of Linosa, had been denied entry by Malta while requests to Italy had gone unanswered, the charities previously said.

Numerous 356 migrants and refugees on board the Ocean Viking had fled desperate circumstances in their home countries and suffered horrific abuses in Libya, MSF said.

More than 100 of those on board were minors, about 90 of whom were unaccompanied, according to MSF. So far this year, more than 600 people have died trying to make the crossing.

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