Valletta, 10 April 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Malta said on Thursday that it would no longer accept any migrants rescued at sea, saying its ports were no longer safe due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Maltese shores are not in a position to offer safe shelter to disembark migrants,” the government said in a statement. “Nor can we guarantee resources to assist irregular migrants aboard any sea vessel or ship.”
It said that all local resources were currently being focused on stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus and that allowing migrants to disembark risked hampering those efforts.
The Maltese government said it would be informing the European Commission of its decision.
Malta‘s decision comes one day after ministers were summoned to a late-night meeting to discuss how to respond to a similar move announved by Italy on Tuesday.
Germany’s government has said that it was warned by both Italy and Malta that they would no longer take in foreign migrant rescue boats.
Boats carrying asylum seekers have continued to depart from North Africa during the coronavirus pandemic and Malta‘s armed forces rescued one such vessel on Thursday. The government said those rescued people would be placed in mandatory quarantine.
Malta has declared a public health emergency to combat the spread of the coronavirus and has closed its borders to all incoming travellers.
The small island-state has 337 confirmed coronavirus cases, with two deaths.