Stranded migrant rescue ship may dock in Malta: France

Source:AFP Published: 2018/6/26 22:13:40

234 asylum seekers include women and children

Italy's Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini gestures during a press conference in Rome, on Monday, saying the Lifeline rescue ship will not be allowed to dock in Italy. Photo: AFP

A rescue ship stranded in the Mediterranean with over 200 migrants on board may be allowed to dock in Malta, France said Tuesday, as EU states remain at loggerheads over how to handle the influx of people trying to reach the continent.

The German charity vessel Lifeline rescued the 234 migrants, including children and pregnant women, on Thursday but it is now moored in the Mediterranean after Malta and Italy refused to take it in.

"As I speak, a European solution seems to be emerging: [it] would be a docking in Malta," French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told RTL radio.

However, a spokesperson for the Maltese government said: "There is no decision yet but it is true there are ongoing discussions which started over the weekend.

"There are ongoing discussions among a number of EU member states to take a share of the migrants."

The decision by Italy and Malta to stop allowing migrant rescue vessels to dock has plunged Europe into a political crisis over how to collectively handle the hundreds of people fleeing war and misery in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Griveaux insisted there was no migrant "crisis" but urged leaders "to respond quickly to an urgent situation."

"France is ready to send a team on site to process [asylum] requests on a case-by-case basis," as it did for migrants aboard the Aquarius vessel once it docked in Spain after also being refused by Italy and Malta.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Madrid would take part in a "joint response" over Lifeline, but "several countries must participate."

Nationalist Corsica leader Jean-Guy Talamoni said Monday it was "ready to help" but that it needed the agreement of French state.

Italy and Malta say they are unfairly bearing the brunt of the new arrivals, while other European countries are urging more forceful policies to block their entry.

Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini - who has vowed an uncompromising stance on the issue - paid a surprise visit on Monday to Libya.

He called for processing centers to be set up in various unnamed African countries to deal with potential migrants in a move "to help Libya as well as Italy block migration."

Similarly, France has proposed setting up EU asylum processing centers in Africa aimed at discouraging people to attempt dangerous trips.

Libya is a key departure point for thousands of refugees and migrants hoping to reach Europe, although hundreds drown each year attempting the perilous crossing over the Mediterranean in often rickety boats.


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