A group of 50 migrants who were rescued at sea and stranded in unsanitary conditions on a Lebanese animal transport ship for five days has been allowed to disembark in Malta.
The MV Talia picked up dozens of mostly Somali and Djibouti people in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya on Friday and was refused permission to take them to the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Mohammad Shaaban, the ship’s captain, on Saturday pleaded with the Maltese authorities to let the migrants ashore, saying they were living in dirty conditions in spaces normally used for animals.
He said the ship had just unloaded animals in Libya and crew had no time to clean the quarters before the rescue took place. Rough seas meant the migrants could not be kept on deck.
“I am running out of food and water to give them,” Shaaban told Al Jazeera in a phone interview.
On Sunday, Malta’s armed forces allowed the medical evacuation of two people from the Talia, but refused to take the remaining 50 men.
Malta had been refusing to receive migrants without prior redistribution agreements with the European Union, arguing that its reception centres are full and it already has too many migrants.
In April and May, it put 425 rescued migrants on chartered tourist boats just outside territorial waters, but by early June was forced to bring them to shore amid fears of a takeover of one of the boats.
Prime Minister Robert Abela, who met Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, on Monday, said migration was a European problem.
“I insist on the point of having a mechanism of relocation that would kick in automatically. Today, we do not have such a concrete mechanism.”
On Tuesday, the government said it had reached an agreement with the European Commission for about 200 migrants to be sent to other EU countries although it did not specify which ones.