Africa

Aquarius migrants land in Malta after standoff

Fifty-eight migrants rescued by the Aquarius charity ship disembarked in Malta on Sunday after nearly a week at sea fearing the authorities would impound the vessel, an AFP journalist said.

A family of migrants from the Aquarius rescue vessel disembark at Valletta port after nearly a week at sea
A family of migrants from the Aquarius rescue vessel disembark at Valletta port after nearly a week at sea (AFP)

Fifty-eight migrants rescued by the Aquarius charity ship disembarked in Malta on Sunday after nearly a week at sea fearing the authorities would impound the vessel, an AFP journalist said.

The migrants, mostly Libyans, boarded two buses at Valletta after being transferred off-shore from the Aquarius to a Libyan coastguard vessel to avoid trouble with the Maltese authorities.

Panama pulled its flag from the ship a week ago, meaning the unregistered Aquarius would not be able to leave any port, while other rescue vessels that have already been impounded in Valletta fight a protracted legal battle.

The migrants -- including 18 minors and 17 women -- were to be sent on to various European host countries.

France has agreed to take 18 of the migrants, Germany and Spain 15 each and Portugal 10.

The group were picked up off Libya last Monday along with one family's dog called Bella who was awaiting a veterinary checkup.

The Aquarius, chartered by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee, is the only civilian ship still trying to rescue migrants making the perilous journey from North Africa to Europe.

With no flag, Aquarius was expected to sail for its home port of Marseille in southern France.