The Latest: Half of migrants at center of standoff off Malta
Jul. 29, 2018
MADRID (AP) — The Latest on Europe's response to mass migration (all times local):
Thirty migrants rescued from the Mediterranean Sea have left Malta for Portugal, part of a deal that ended a standoff over a private aid boat.
Their departure on Sunday means half of the 234 people who were rescued at sea on June 27 have left the tiny island nation for other European countries.
The Netherlands, France and Luxembourg already took in some of the asylum-seekers. Portugal, Belgium, Ireland, Norway and other countries also pledged to welcome some.
Malta had demanded that fellow European nations take a share of the migrants rescued by the crew of a German aid group's rescue boat. The nine-nation deal to distribute the migrants resolved a dispute that kept the boat off Malta's coast for six days.
The boat's German captain is charged in Malta with captaining a ship that wasn't properly registered.
Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed is allowing 40 migrants who have been kept at sea for two weeks to enter the country "for humanitarian reasons."
Chahed authorized a Tunisian-flagged commercial boat that has been carrying the migrants since July 16 to dock at the southern Tunisian port of Zarzis late Saturday.
The migrants reportedly were stranded in the Mediterranean Sea for five days before a Maltese ship picked them up and then transferred them to the commercial boat.
Italy, Malta and France all refused to let the vessel disembark.
Ali Hajji, the captain of the Sarost 5, told The Associated Press on Sunday that "everyone... is still waiting for the order to be given for the boat to enter the port."
The Tunisian Red Crescent says it has been providing the migrants, who include two pregnant women, with food and medical assistance.
Spain's maritime rescue service says it has saved 123 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa.
The service says it pulled the migrants from 12 different boats intercepted by rescue craft Sunday morning in the Strait of Gibraltar.
The latest arrivals come after Spain rescued nearly 1,000 people attempting the perilous journey from African to European shores on Friday and Saturday.
Spain has received over 20,000 migrants by sea in 2018. A crackdown by Libyan authorities and Italy's refusal to let rescue boats dock has made it more difficult for migrants to reach Italy.
Human trafficking mafias pack the migrants into small craft unfit for open waters. Over 1,500 people have died so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean.