Sept. 30 (UPI) -- A total of 58 migrants from as many as five different countries disembarked in Malta Sunday after arriving on the migrant rescue ship Aquarius.
The humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee, which operates the Aquarius alongside Doctors Without Borders announced that all 58 rescued people, including 7 families were successfully transferred to Malta.
The ship will return to port to deal with flag registration after losing its Panama registration, the group said.
The rescued migrants include Libyans, Syrians, Palestinians, Somalis and Pakistanis. Three children under the age of five and a small white dog were also aboard the ship.
Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the country "rescued all lives" and that the country chose to be part of the solution by allowing the ship to transfer the migrants into the country.
"The choice we make, on my responsibility is to be part of the solution and not part of the problem," he said.
Malta agreed to take in the migrant ship as part of a joint initiative with France to redistribute the migrants among themselves as well as Germany, Portugal and Spain.
"All migrants who disembarked in Malta will be transferred to four other European countries in the next days. The Government of Malta has participated in this effort on purely humanitarian grounds and without prejudice to its position on SAR activities, which remain unchanged. The MV Aquarius has been deflagged and is expected to proceed to a port in France to rectify its stateless position," Malta's government said.
In August, Muscat allowed the Aquarius to enter Malta's ports "despite having no legal obligation to do so," as it carried about 150 migrants.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said it was grateful to Malta for allowing the refugees to disembark and for the other four nations for taking them in, but called for more nations to take initiative to provide safe refuge for migrants.
"Reinforcing search and rescue capacity on the Central Mediterranean and disembarkation in places of safety, has to be everyone's goal," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said. "We are talking about people's lives. Refugees and migrants cannot be continually put at risk while States argue over their responsibilities."