Migrant rescue ship Lifeline to dock in Malta
ROME – The NGO search and rescue vessel carrying 234 migrants received permission to dock in Malta on Wednesday, where it will be impounded upon arrival, the country’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said. The ship had been stalled after German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced that his country would not participate in the agreement to redistribute migrants amongst European states.
The fault of the story “falls on the captain,” Muscat stressed, adding that “the Lifeline will be seized for the launch of an investigation … [having] ignored international rules.”
After a week-long stalemate, a secret meeting between Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to have finally broken the deadlock with the ship's passengers set to be immediately reallocated to a host of European countries upon arrival in Malta.
However, the original settlement fell through early on Wednesday morning after Germany reportedly refused to accept its portion of the migrants, state-run Italian news agency ANSA said, whilst the Lifeline crew lamented that a “humanitarian solution” had not been found.
Yet, a revamped solution has at last been found. Alongside Belgium, Malta, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and the Netherlands, Conte agreed that “Italy will play its part and welcome a share of the migrants who are on board” since it was “consistent with the core principle of our proposal on immigration.”
Following his speech to the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday, Conte is expected to renew his calls in Brussels for a revision of the Dublin agreement on migration, having said that only seven percent of migrants who reach Europe are refugees.
Mission Lifeline spokesman, Axel Steier, slammed Seehofer’s unwillingness to participate, saying that he “acts like a German version of Italian colleague Salvini and makes the German government complicit in the lack of assistance to people in danger.”
“We have been stuck with just under 250 people for five days because no one offers us a safe haven,” Mission Lifeline said. “Several people already need intensive medical treatment,” they added.
Many others were suffering from acute seasickness with weather conditions are expected to worsen. The captain of the vessel requested provisional permission for Lifeline to enter Maltese waters, to shelter from high winds and churning seas whilst dialogue between EU states eventually found its conclusion.
The Lifeline crew now face a nervous wait upon arrival in Malta, with an investigation into their actions looming.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had hailed a victory in his obstinate fight against the arrival of migrants, having called on Lifeline to be detained by Maltese authorities. “That’s two!” Salvini gleefully wrote on Twitter. “After the NGO Aquarius was sent to Spain, now the Lifeline NGO will go to Malta, with this illegal ship that will finally be seized.”
“For women and children who are really fleeing the war, the doors are open, for all the others no! #stopinvasione,” the anti-migrant League leader tweeted, who also offered his “full support” to suggestions from Minister of Transport Danilo Toninelli that Italy may ignore further migrant SOS calls.
Apprehensive of his latest statements, however, the Italian Coastguard responded, confirming that they would always answer distress calls in the Mediterranean since “it’s our moral and legal obligation.”