Italy agrees to take in stranded migrants after Malta refuses

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 07, 2013 1:10 AM

VALLETTA (Reuters) - Italy on Tuesday night agreed to take 102 migrants stranded on a tanker in the Mediterranean after Malta refused to allow them entry for three days.

The migrants were rescued from a boat 24 miles off the Libyan coast on Sunday night by the Liberian-registered tanker Salamis. The tanker then headed for Malta but was refused entry to Maltese water by the Maltese government. The migrants are mainly from north Africa.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat resisted calls by the EU to let the migrants in, saying they were not in distress. He said the ship's captain had ignored orders by the Italian and Maltese rescue authorities to send the ship back to Libya.

Early on Wednesday, the Maltese government announced that Italy had agreed to take the migrants and the tanker would head for Syracuse in Sicily. Muscat thanked Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta for the decision saying it would "further reinforce good relations between the two countries."

(Reporting by Chris Scicluna; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)