The Latest: Official seeks long-term solution on migrants

The Latest: Official seeks long-term solution on migrants
Sophie Beau, left, general director of SOS Mediterranee France, Frederic Penard, operations director for SOS Mediterranee, and Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, from Doctors without Borders group, answer reporters Tuesday, Aug.14, 2018 in Paris. Portugal has become the first European country to say it could take in some migrants aboard rescue ship Aquarius, operated by French groups, as officials in coastal France made impassioned pleas to a so-far-silent French government to allow its docking. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

PARIS (AP) — The Latest on a ship carrying rescued migrants in the Mediterranean (all times local):

5:45 p.m.

The European Union’s top migration official is welcoming a move by a group of EU countries to host 141 migrants rescued at sea, but is warning that a permanent solution has to be found.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos commended the countries “for their solidarity and for sharing the responsibility” of sheltering the people, mostly from Eritrea and Somalia.

But he says: “We cannot rely on ad-hoc arrangements, we need sustainable solutions. It is not the responsibility of one or a few member states only, but of the European Union as a whole.”

The NGO boat carrying the migrants was initially denied entry to Malta and Italy. It’s the second standoff of its kind recently and comes amid a crackdown on arrivals by Italy’s anti-migrant government.

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5:20 p.m.

Two French aid groups operating a ship carrying 141 migrants say they are relieved the rescued people will soon reach shore but they’ve been warning the European Union for months and countries must have seen the problem coming.

Rescue ship the Aquarius has been sitting halfway between Malta and Italian territory since Monday morning, blocked by authorities in both countries from entering. Malta has now agreed to let the ship dock, with the migrants then transferred to five other EU countries.

Sophie Beau, Vice President of SOS Mediterranee’s international network, told reporters Tuesday that “we know perfectly well that Italian ports are closed.”

She says SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders have been warning European authorities for two months of the need for a mechanism to avoid such standoffs at sea.

The groups say the Aquarius could reach Malta late Tuesday if its admission is officially confirmed. Of the 141 people aboard, 67 are under 18 years of age. The groups say there are no urgent medical cases aboard but that the state of the migrants’ health is generally in decline.

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4:05 p.m.

Malta says it will allow the private rescue ship Aquarius, with 141 migrants aboard, enter port as part of an EU deal.

The Maltese government said Tuesday that the migrants, who were rescued in the waters off Libya four days earlier, will be distributed among other European Union nations — France, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain. Meanwhile, Malta will serve as a logistical base for Aquarius.

Malta in a statement calls the arrangement’s a “concrete example of European leadership and solidarity.”

The aid groups SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders, with staff aboard the ship, had appealed to Italy and Malta for safe harbor.

Italy’s new populist government had refused.

Malta noted that it rescued 114 migrants at sea on Monday and that 60 of those will also be distributed among other EU nations. .

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12:15 p.m.

Two officials in France are urging national authorities to allow docking access to a boat carrying 141 migrants rescued last week in the Mediterranean Sea, stressing humanitarian concerns.

The ship, Aquarius, is operated by French groups. It is currently situated between Malta and the Italian island of Lampedusa, with Italy’s new anti-migrant government refusing to let it dock.

Jean-Guy Talamoni, the president of Corsica’s local assembly, told Europe-1 on Tuesday that, “it’s an obligation to help people in danger.”

The director of the port of Sete near Montpellier, Jean-Claude Gayssot, also said the evening before on BFM-TV that “there are emergency situations and you have to deal with them.”

The boat needs the authorization of French authorities to enter any port. French President Emmanuel Macron has not yet commented.