40 rescued migrants brought to Malta; 123 more still at sea
Personnel of a Maltese Armed Force vessel, right, help a child to board their ship from the German humanitarian vessel Alan Kurdi, off the Maltese coast, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. (Pavel D. Vitko/Sea-eye.org via AP)
MILAN -- Forty migrants rescued off the coast of Libya were successfully transferred Sunday to Maltese military boats and brought to port, the German rescue group Sea-Eye said, ending another standoff with the European Union over the fate of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea.
Sea-Eye posted photos on Twitter showing the migrants being handed over to the Maltese military. An earlier video showed the migrants cheering at the news that they would be transferred first to Malta, then to other EU countries.
Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced Saturday on Twitter that the small EU nation would allow the 40 migrants aboard the Alan Kurdi to disembark after a request from Germany. He said the EU commission had organized their transfer to other EU nations.
The Alan Kurdi had headed toward Malta after Italy again refused to open its ports to a humanitarian rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea.
German Interior Minister Horse Seehofer said Malta "is sending an important signal of solidarity," ahead of a meeting planned next month in Malta in which the interior ministers from Germany, France, Italy and Malta hope to come up with a way to deal with EU migrant arrivals by sea and avoid repeated standoffs.
Another rescue ship, operated by Spanish aid group Open Arms, remained at sea for a third day with more than 120 migrants who were rescued during two missions in the central Mediterranean.
The aid group said many of the rescued passengers showed signs of having suffered violence in Libya. The boat is currently in international waters near the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Open Arms said Italy threatened to issue a fine of 50,000 euros ($56,000) if the rescue ship entered Italian waters.
The group said after Italy refused the ship access "it is urgent and necessary to have a safe port" to disembark the passengers.
The Spanish group said its boat rescued 123 migrants on Friday and the Italian coast guard evacuated two pregnant women Saturday.
Migrants attempting to reach Europe by land were stooped in North Macedonia over the weekend. Police said they discovered 45 migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan during vehicle checks late Saturday- one a van stopped for a routine inspection near the border with Serbia and the other a truck in the central part of the country.
Police said both drivers were arrested. The 21 people in the van were taken to a town for questioning. The 24 in the truck were transferred to a shelter and were to be deported to Greece, where they came to North Macedonia from.