Italy Agrees to Take More Than 100 Migrants Refused by Malta

The Salamis oil tanker heading for Sicily, 7 August (still from video)

The Italian authorities released footage of the tanker on Wednesday

An oil tanker carrying 102 African migrants has brought them to Italy after Malta refused to allow them to land in a dramatic stand-off.

Boats began taking the migrants to shore from the M/V Salamis, moored off the Sicilian port of Syracuse.

They are being taken to a holding centre after medical and police checks.

Malta accuses the captain of the tanker of ignoring calls to turn back to Libya, after it rescued the migrants from a craft off that country’s coast.

The crisis was resolved overnight when Italy gave permission for the Salamis to travel on to Syracuse.

BBC mapEU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem welcomed news of the migrants’ arrival in Italy, tweeting: “Thank You Italy.”

The migrants reportedly include an injured woman, four pregnant women and a five-month-old baby.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who had resisted EU pressure to allow the migrants to land, thanked his Italian counterpart Enrico Letta earlier, saying the decision would “reinforce” ties between the countries.

The government of the tiny island state, which receives thousands of illegal migrants heading to Europe each year, had argued that the migrants were no longer in danger and to accept them would set a “dangerous precedent”.

According to the Times of Malta, a new group of 86 migrants was brought to Malta on board a patrol boat on Wednesday morning, after being rescued off the coast.

On Sunday, 111 mainly African migrants arrived in a rubber dinghy at Delimara, on Malta’s south-east coast.

Mr Muscat told EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy last month that the burden of immigration to the EU should not fall on its smallest member.

“Call us harsh, call us heartless, but we are not pushovers,” the Maltese prime minister said.