The government of Malta has decided to allow about 420 migrants to disembark chartered quarantine vessels after a group of them threatened to harm the crew.
According to prime minister Robert Abela, Maltese authorities received a phone call from a crewmember, who reported imminent danger. DW reports that some migrants aboard the chartered harbor cruise boat Europa II obtained knives from the galley and threatened to blow up a gas cylinder, forcing the crew to take refuge on the bridge.
Officials discarded the option of a forcible law enforcement response, according to The Independent, fearing injury to all involved, and the migrants were allowed on shore. Xinhua reported that foul weather with Force 8 winds also played a role in the decision to bring them to land.
Many of the migrants who disembarked Saturday night had been on board private harbor cruise boats for more than a month. Beginning in late April, as part of a policy banning the arrival of rescuees, the Maltese government chartered the four boats and used them for housing survivors at a position outside of Maltese territorial seas. Women and children were previously allowed to come ashore.
Malta is one of the closest parts of the EU to Libyan shores, making it one of the Mediterranean’s leading destinations for maritime migrants and good samaritan rescue vessels. However, it has limited resources compared to its EU neighbors, and like Italy, it has closed its ports to migrant arrivals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.