Luxembourg accepts some of 49 migrants stranded at sea

Luxembourg accepts some of 49 migrants stranded at sea

The deal calls for 300 migrants to be redistributed between eight countries, including Ireland.

Malta said another 78 migrants would be allowed to stay in Malta, and 44 Bangladeshi migrants would be sent back to their country.

The deal, announced by Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Wednesday, will see European Union countries including Italy take in 49 migrants stranded aboard private rescue ships since last month.

The migrants have been stranded off the coast of Malta on two boats since late previous year, with some suffering from dehydration and seasickness.

He again defended his decision to refuse to let the ships dock, although Malta had allowed them to enter its waters for supplies and to shelter from bad weather.

The migrants will be transferred from the Sea-Watch 3 and Albrecht Penck ships to Maltese coastguard vessels "as soon as possible", Muscat said.

The people aboard the Sea Watch and Sea Eye, which are both operated by German NGOs, will land in Malta later on Wednesday before being transferred to their host countries.

Following the deal, Matteo Salvini, deputy prime minister and also leader of the far-right party the League, said Italy should not take any migrants from Malta.

39;Sea-Eye' docked in Malta in December
39;Sea-Eye' docked in Malta in December

"I praise Malta for allowing these arrivals and the Member States for showing active solidarity in accepting immigrants", the European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopulos, published on Twitter.

"Giving in to the pressure and threats of Europe and the NGOs is a sign of weakness that the Italian people do not deserve".

Salvini was in Warsaw on Wednesday for meetings with officials from Poland's government, which refused to accept any of the 49 migrants.

The migrants at the center of the EU-brokered deal are among the waves of people from Africa, Asia and the Middle East who fled poverty and armed conflicts and risked their lives aboard smugglers' boats bound for Europe in recent years.

In a press conference, Muscat confirmed that Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy have agreed to take in the migrants that had been rescued by the NGO vessels Sea Watch 3 and Prof.

Spanish police say they have broken up a gang that smuggled people and drugs by boat from Morocco into Spain, charging migrants up to 2,000 euros ($2,300) a trip. "After 19 days at sea, our guests will finally reach a safe port".

Mr Avramopoulos said the fact that some of the migrants had to wait at sea for three weeks "is not what the European Union stands for".

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