Ireland to accept five migrants after agreeing deal with Malta
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Ireland to accept five migrants after agreeing deal with Malta

IRELAND is to accept five migrants after Malta agreed a deal with eight EU member states over their relocation.

The 49 migrants, rescued on December 22 and 29, were aboard the Sea Watch 3 and Albrecht Penck NGO vessels.

Malta had refused to allow the rescue ships to dock, saying it was not the nearest port of call and that taking responsibility for the migrants was beyond the remit of the EU’s smallest member state.

Relocation

However the 49 migrants, including women and children, were allowed to disembark in Malta on Wednesday after a deal was struck.

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As well as Ireland, the other countries that have agreed to accept the migrants are Germany, France, Portugal, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy.

As part of the deal, the eight countries will also accept 131 of 249 migrants previously rescued by Malta.

Of the remaining 118 migrants, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat revealed that 44 Bangladeshi nationals will be returned to their own country, meaning 74 will remain in Malta.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said Ireland will offer protection to five unaccompanied child migrants ‘as a gesture of solidarity & humanitarianism’.

'No precedent'

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“We welcome this show of solidarity and understanding that Malta is going beyond what is required of us,” said Mr Muscat.

He added: “Malta is a very small country. It is in our nature to assist those in distress.

“But as Prime Minister, I cannot shirk the responsibility of safeguarding Malta’s national security.

“I reiterate, as I did before, that this case shall not act as a precedent – and I have reassurances that this will not be the case from European institutions.”

lives above politics

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UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, commended Malta and the European Commission, but expressed its disappointment at the delay in reaching a solution.

“Rescue at sea does not end when someone is pulled out of the water, it means getting them to dry land and a place of safety as soon as possible,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“The imperative to save lives comes above politics and cannot be a responsibility that’s negotiated on a case by case basis.”