• Italian-flagged vessels are also considered Italian territory under international law.
  • Italy and Malta frequently complain of having to take unfair responsibility for migrants.

 

ROME: Valletta on Tuesday agreed to take in around 90 migrants it had asked the Italian coastguard to rescue in Malta's Mediterranean search and rescue area, officials said.

Malta had initially not wanted to take the migrants, after the Italian coastguard rescued them from a small boat in distress at Malta's request.

“They were transferred to Maltese patrol boats and are now on their way," a Maltese coastguard spokeswoman told AFP, asking not to be named.

They will arrive in Malta on Tuesday night, she added.

The Italian coastguard on Monday went to the migrants' rescue, took them on board and then requested a rendezvous with a Maltese vessel to transboard or disembark “but did not obtain it," the Italian coastguard said earlier.

Italy and Malta frequently complain of having to take unfair responsibility for migrants making the perilous journey from North Africa as they are the first countries they will likely reach.

Both countries have previously adopted hardline attitudes against charity vessels which rescue migrants who mostly depart from Libya in flimsy dinghies.

Under international law, a country is not necessarily obliged to allow rescue vessels operating in its search and rescue area to disembark on its own territory.

Italian-flagged vessels are also considered Italian territory under international law.