In a tweet posted today, interior minister Christophe Castaner said France, together with Germany and other European partners, has agreed to welcome migrants out of “solidarity,” to allow them to disembark the Alan Kurdi – named after a toddler who tragically died crossing the Mediterranean from Syria – in the nearest port, Valletta in Malta. Mr Castaner’s intervention is likely to be an attempt to break the deadlock with Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who said earlier his country was refusing to allow port access to the ship, saying that the NGO should have headed to Tunisia, the nearest safe port to the rescue spot. Italy has also refused entry. Mr Muscat added: “We cannot send a signal to other countries that they can do what they want and dump the problem on Malta.
“It is not fair to point fingers at Malta and say we are not performing our duty.
“Malta did not create this situation and now we are being asked to solve it.
“We are always ready to help but we cannot expect to carry all of the weight.”
The German humanitarian aid group, Sea-Eye, rescued 64 migrants off the Libyan coast on April 3.
Libya, where thousands of African and Syrian migrants and refugees are trapped in Tripoli as a battle for the city draws closer, is the main embarkation point for migrants attempting the perilous sea-crossing to Europe.
Two of 12 women on board the ship were disembarked this week by Maltese patrol boats for health reasons. One of them, a 23-year-old pregnant Nigerian, was taken away on Wednesday evening after an epileptic crisis, Sea-Eye said.
The charity said in a statement: “The Alan Kurdi urgently needs a rapid, political and humanitarian solution for 62 refugees and 17 crew members, whose families are also worried.”
Italy has closed its ports to humanitarian ships since last June, when the far-right League formed a coalition government with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.
Last week League leader and deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini told Berlin to take responsibility for the boat.
EU states have been at loggerheads over migration since a spike in Mediterranean arrivals caught the bloc by surprise in 2015, stretching social and security services and fuelling support for far-right, nationalist and populist groups.
Sea arrivals have fallen from more than a million in the peak year to some 140,000 people in 2018, according to UN data.
However, political tensions around migration are still running high ahead of next month’s European Parliamentary elections.
Last month, rights groups criticised the EU for abdicating its humanitarian responsibilities after member states agreed to withdraw ships patrolling the Mediterranean for migrants.
Sea-Eye president Gorden Isler said: “We must put an end to this. It is unacceptable that one person after another has to fall ill to be able to finally get off the ship.”
On Friday Italy offered to open its ports to two woman and their children, but they refused to be split from their husbands and remained on board.
New arrivals in Italy have plummeted since Mr Salvini took office in June, with just 551 migrants arriving so far this year, according to official data, down 92 percent on the same period in 2018 and down 98 percent on 2017.
The vast majority come from Libya, whose descent into a civil war after Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011 has allowed people-smugglers to operate with impunity.