Valletta (AFP) – The captain of the German NGO ship Lifeline, accused of breaking international law by picking up migrants off the Libyan coast, will appear in a Maltese court on Monday, a government spokesman told AFP.
The boat with 230 migrants aboard was allowed to dock in Malta on Wednesday after being stranded in the Mediterranean for almost a week as it sought a port willing to take it in.
The Maltese government spokesman said Friday that the vessel’s captain had been questioned upon arrival and released on police bail.
Pending legal action the boat itself remains impounded and is being monitored around the clock.
All those aboard have been screened by local authorities and the process of distribution to other member states can start and the migrants will begin to be moved elsewhere next week, the spokesman added.
The vessel’s fate had been hanging in the balance as EU member states remained at loggerheads over how to handle the influx of people trying to reach the continent.
The boat, refused by Italy, was allowed to dock only after Malta, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium and France agreed to welcome some of the migrants.
The Mission Lifeline charity has come under fire from EU leaders who accuse it of contravening international law by rescuing the migrants when the Libyan coastguard was already intervening.
Lifeline argued that the migrants would not be safe in Libya, where they have faced abuse and rape in holding centres, and that returning them there would breach international refugee law.