Six European Nations Reach Deal to Receive Rescued Migrants

(Bloomberg) -- Six European Union countries agreed to receive migrants from the Aquarius, a boat seeking a safe port to land 141 people picked up from the Mediterranean Sea, government leaders said.

The Maltese government said in a statement on its website that it would allow the Aquarius to enter its ports, and that France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Luxembourg would help take the migrants. Spain coordinated the agreement and will take 60 of the migrants, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on his verified Twitter account.

The efforts by Aquarius and other vessels rescuing migrants from the sea has focused attention on the European Union’s response to their plight. The new Italian government has refused to allow NGO boats from docking in Italy, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel has seen public scrutiny intensify over her migration policies with calls to get tougher.

The Aquarius deal sees Malta providing a safe port while the other five nations share the allocation of migrants in a joint effort to ease the pressure on individual nations. The Maltese government said the accord is an example of European solidarity, while the leaders of France and Spain hailed the deal as EU cooperation at work.

The agreement also sees France joining Southern European nations in taking a more active role when it comes to dealing with migrants arriving by sea. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for providing a solution to the Aquarius alongside the European Commission.

While the debate around migration has grown louder as a result of the hard-line approach undertaken by the Italian government and Merkel’s woes at home, the number of migrants arriving to Europe has been drastically reduced since its 2015 peak.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.