MALTA, MUSCAT: "WE'LL IMPOUND LIFELINE VESSEL"
The 234 migrants on board the MV Lifeline will be distributed among eight European Union member states. This was confirmed by the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat while addressing a press conference in Valletta. The countries are Malta, Belgium, Italy, Ireland, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal. The agreement was reached last Sunday during an informal summit in Brussels.
The Maltese Prime Minister said that the number of migrants to be taken by the eight European countries will be determined once all investigations were done, including the right to apply for asylum. Those who would not qualify for protection, will be send to their country of origin with the assistance of EU institutions.
The MV Lifeline is expected to arrive in Malta late this evening. The Prime Minister of Malta confirmed that the Maltese authorities will also investigate the crew on board and the vessel will be impounded after the ship’s captain ignored orders from the Maltese and Italian authorities to hand over the migrants to the Libyan coast guards. The Maltese Prime Minister said that the ship should not have been involved in sea rescues because the MV Lifeline is registered as a pleasure boat.
Joseph Muscat said that despite Malta having no legal obligation or responsibility in this matter and despite the fact that events took place in the Libyan Search and Rescue Area between Libya and Lampedusa – where it was neither the competent nor the coordinating authority – the Maltese government took the lead to seek a two-facet solution before the situation escalated to a humanitarian crisis.