A humanitarian rescue ship stranded at sea for days amid an international row over its fate has docked in Malta.
The 234 migrants on board the ship had been rescued in the Mediterranean last week.
Joseph Muscat. Malta’s prime minister, said the ship would be allowed to dock, but would be impounded and its crew placed under investigation for allegedly operating illegally.
Migrants crowded the deck, wearing orange life jackets, and waved as they entered the port of Valletta under escort by a Maltese patrol boat.
The commander of the ship sounded the horn twice to salute the migrants and raised the yellow flag to signal permission for authorities to board.
Migrants stepped off the boat one by one escorted by officials and medical personnel.
Mr Muscat said the Lifeline case was unique because of the alleged violations of the crew.
Mission Lifeline has been criticised for rescuing migrants when the Libyan coastguard was already intervening.
The refusals of Malta and Italy to allow the ships to dock is indicative of a hardening of positions towards migrants in Europe, shortly before leaders are due to discuss migration policies at an EU summit.
Italy and Malta had both refused to allow the Aquarius to dock, forcing 630 migrants to travel another 900 miles to Spain.
It then appeared the situation was resolved when Italy announced it would take some migrants and Malta said it would open its ports.
But Malta said the ship was not welcome until it had a deal for all the migrants, however it went on to allow the ship to enter its waters to escape rough seas.
Lifeline said some of the migrants were in fragile health.
Manuel Sarrazin, a German MP, said: “Last night they were close to calling emergencies to evacuate two people.
“Doctors on board were able to stabilise them so the evacuation, which would have been very dangerous, didn’t have to take place.”
He said some passengers were suffering severe sea sickness.
Shortly after docking, the charity tweeted: “Finally, Lifeline arrived in the port! Donate now for our next rescue missions.”
Mr Muscat said the migrants would be processed and those genuinely seeking asylum would be given protection.
Three mothers and their babies have been taken to hospital according to the prime minister’s spokesman.