Watch: Rescued asylum seekers finally disembark in Malta

The asylum seekers rescued after their boat was in distress by two separate civil search and rescue NGO vessels were finally brought to shore after a deal was reached between EU member states. Newsbook.com.mt was live from Haywharf where the people were brought in by patrol boats operated by the Armed Forces of Malta. 32 people were rescued by NGO vessel Sea Watch 3 on 22 December and had to endure 19 days on board the vessel which was recently allowed to seek refuge in Maltese territorial waters. The 17 people rescued by Professor Albrecht Plenck operated by NGO Sea Eye were rescued on 27 December, and Sea Watch 3 sought refuge in Maltese territorial waters. The stalemate came to end after the European Commission brokered a deal in which some 300 asylum seekers that have reached Malta over the past few weeks will be relocated and distributed among member states.

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The asylum seekers were ashore slightly before 4pm and have now been transferred onto police vans where they will be taken to the initial reception centre. The transfer from the NGO boats to the patrol boats took place around 3pm on Wednesday.

READ: Watch: Migrants to be saved

Sea-Watch’s Head of Airborne Operations Tamino Böhm speaking to Newsbook.com.mt described the deteriorating situation on board Sea Watch 3 over the past few days as it got more tense, with the rescued people fearing being taken “hostage” on the vessel by the European Member States as they brokered a solution and a relocation. Böhm said while they were relieved that the people were finally ashore, however he warned that the scenario could not remain the same, and there was a dire need of a predictable mechanism over ad hoc deals. Böhm explained that without such a predictable mechanism, the people would end up suffering more than they have already suffered.

The bishops of Malta similarly urged for a predictable mechanism to avoid such scenarios earlier on, on Wednesday.

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“What did we do wrong?”

Böhm reiterated Sea Watch’s demand for predictable mechanisms which would come into force once a rescue operation takes place. Asked about the people’s expectations on board, Böhm said that the people questioned if they did something wrong as they felt that Europe was closing its doors on them. Böhm described this as “irresponsible” pressuring of the asylum seekers in search of a better life.

READ: Over 800 migrants disembarked in Malta last year

Interior Minister Salvini demands clarification

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the majority of the nearly 300 asylum seekers now in Malta will be shared among Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Italy and Malta. The repatriation of 44 Bangladeshis was also announced. However Interior Minister Matteo Salvini demanded a “clarification” within the government since the agreement was announced according to international media reports. The Italian Minister is currently on a visit to Poland and is expected to meet with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and other ministers upon his return later on Wednesday. Salvini reiterated that he remains absolutely against any new arrivals in Italy.