Malta has landed itself in hot water with the European Commission over the country’s refusal to allow entry to a tanker carrying 102 African migrants. The island nation receives thousands of Africans who enter the country illegally with over 1,000 arriving in the past month.
The EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, said that the Maltese authorities had a “humanitarian duty” to allow the people to disembark.
The Italian navy had asked the ship carrying the migrants to take them to the nearest coast in Libya. The Liberian-registered tanker, which picked up the migrants near the Libyan coast, had been stopped just outside of Malta’s territorial waters. Among the passengers are four pregnant women, a five month baby and one woman who has been injured.
The Malta government has claimed that the migrants are in no danger, however an urgent medical call had been sent from the ship saying the injured woman needs immediate hospital care.
The Commission said the priority was to save lives and any dispute about which country was responsible for rescuing the migrants or where they should land should be sorted out later.