France and Malta have agreed to host 50 people each, responding to a request for help sent by Italy after it took part in the rescue of 450 migrants from an overcrowded ship in the Mediterranean, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said. Other European countries will also take some of the asylum seekers, Conte added in a message posted on his official Facebook profile on Saturday.
“This is the first important result obtained after a day of phone calls and written exchanges I have had with all 27 European leaders,” Conte said.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat confirmed that his tiny Mediterranean island would accept 50 people. “Malta not only demands but offers solidarity,” he tweeted.
French officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Earlier on Saturday a ship operated by EU border agency Frontex and a vessel owned by Italy’s tax police picked up some 450 migrants near the Italian island of Linosa and more than 100 nautical miles from Malta. Valletta had rejected pressure from Rome on Friday to rescue them. Conte posted the text of two separate letters he sent to European heads of state and government and to the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council. “We have to act together with urgency to face this complex and very sensitive situation,” Conte wrote in one letter.
Conte also called for further measures to tackle illegal immigration, including pan-EU rules for private boats rescuing migrants, a strengthening of Frontex and talks with the United Nations on centres for asylum seekers outside Europe.
Francia e Malta prenderanno rispettivamente 50 dei 450 migranti trasbordati sulle due navi militari. A breve arriveranno…