News / Europe

Italy Accepts Migrants Stranded in Mediterranean

Migrants prepare to disembark in the island of Lampedusa, Italy, Aug. 7, 2013, after being rescued at sea by the Italian Coast Guard.
Migrants prepare to disembark in the island of Lampedusa, Italy, Aug. 7, 2013, after being rescued at sea by the Italian Coast Guard.
Selah Hennessy
Italy has agreed to take in more than 100 migrants who have been stranded for days on a tanker in the Mediterranean after Malta refused to allow them entry.  Malta and other Mediterranean countries like Italy and Greece are calling for the European Union to share the burden as migrants flood to EU's entry points and, they say, swamp their local populations. 

The migrants arrived in Italy on Wednesday.  They were rescued from their badly damaged inflatable boat by a tanker off the coast of Libya on Sunday and had been stranded since then.

Four pregnant women and a five-month-old baby are believed to be among the group. 

But Malta’s prime minister had said the migrants were not in distress and refused to allow them into his small island country.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat thanked Italy for accepting the migrants.

“We are happy that Italy agreed, of course, because the priority must be given to the assistance of the migrants who are in distress and in need of assistance,” said Flavio Di Giacomo from the International Organization for Migration, or IOM in Italy.

Malta is a top gateway for migrants attempting to reach Europe from Africa.  According to the United Nations, last year more than 1,500 people arrived by sea, a large influx for a country with a population of only around 500,000.

Relative to its population, Malta receives the highest number of asylum applications in the world.

Christian Schweiger is a Europe expert at Durham University in the north of England.  He said Malta was not alone in its struggle to cope with the influx of migrants.

“The countries like Spain, Italy and Malta - the ones at the southern front of the European Union - have been bombarded with thousands of migrants from particularly Africa in recent years.  And these countries have been calling on the European Commission for help,” said Schweiger.

He said Malta, especially, felt it has been overburdened and that other European Union countries should share the load of asylum seekers from Africa.

Earlier this year the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution to give greater support to so-called "frontline" countries, including by exploring new approaches to relocate refugees and asylum seekers within Europe.

But Schweiger said it’s a difficult road to navigate.

“The major problem is that we do not have a common European asylum policy and this is obviously the result of all countries in the European Union, particularly the large ones in Central Europe like Germany and France, wanting to maintain their own asylum policies,” he said.

What’s more, he said, central European countries had no desire to take on more migrants and preferred to let the frontline countries cope with the situation.

But he said for migrants the situation would only get worse if European countries did not start working together.

He said countries like Italy and Malta could stop accepting the migrants.

"They will react by sending these people back and possibly closing their borders," said Schweiger. "They will be criticized about this by the rest of the European Union.  But I think they have a point when they say, 'Well, you have no right no criticize us if you do not assist us in this difficult task.'"

The European Commission had criticized Malta for not accepting the North Africans who arrived off the country's coast on Sunday.

The EC said Malta had a duty to admit the passengers on humanitarian grounds.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid