VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — The Maltese government said Tuesday it would not allow a tanker carrying 102 migrants to enter its waters despite a request from the European Commission to allow the passengers to disembark in Malta on humanitarian grounds.
The government has insisted that its decision to deny entry to the tanker is in keeping with international law. Maltese authorities had instructed the captain of the Liberia-registered tanker to take the migrants to Libya after he rescued them closer to the Libyan coast on Monday, but the tanker continued to Malta.
Maltese army medics boarded the tanker anchored 24 nautical miles off Malta's coast on Tuesday and concluded that no evacuations were necessary, the government said. The migrants were being provided with food and water.
The commission in Brussels, which is the executive body of the European Union, had earlier said that the safety of passengers, including four pregnant women and one woman requiring medical care, was the foremost concern. It said sending the migrants back to their apparent origin, Libya, "would be contrary to international law."
Each year, Malta receives thousands of migrants heading to Europe, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa.