Luxembourg accepts some of 49 migrants stranded at sea

Joseph Muscat said Ireland will receive some of the migrants

A migrant, part of a group of 49, reacts towards the media as he and others disembark from one of Malta's AFM Protector-class coastal patrol boats.

Following Wednesday's deal, Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini accused the European Commission of "facilitating the work of smugglers and NGOs".

Thirty-two people were picked up off Libya on 22 December by the Dutch-registered vessel Sea Watch 3, operated by a German humanitarian group, while the Sea-Eye - a second ship run by a different German charity - rescued another 17 people on 29 December.

Germany, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, and Italy agreed to share 224 migrants, with Malta taking 74.

"After 19 days at sea, our guests finally have a safe haven", Sea-Watch tweeted.

"This represents a confession of state failure, policy must not be made at the expense of people in distress", the NGO said.

Celebrations aboard the Sea Watch on Wednesday.

Some were refusing food to protest the stalemate, and the migrants' physical and psychological health were deteriorating.

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Priority will be given to vulnerable people including women and children, according to EU Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos, who welcomed Italy's cooperation but said that a system was needed to avoid such emergency solutions in future.

"Malta is a very small country", he said.

Malta last week allowed the boats to shelter near its coasts from the bad weather but would not let them disembark the migrants.

Alter said eight countries have now indicated their willingness to take in the migrants but talks are ongoing with more.

The deal follows nineteen days of impasse between European Union countries over who should welcome the migrants.

"I am and I will remain absolutely against new [migrant] arrivals in Italy", he said on Twitter.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte has said that if Italy takes about 15 rescued migrant children and their parents that wouldn't "stain" the country's crackdown on accepting migrants rescued by private aid vessels.

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