The 234 migrants rescued by the MV Lifeline were hoping to make it to mainland Europe, the Times of Malta has been told.

Sources within the migration services who are in touch with the migrants said they appeared to be in high spirits despite an arduous journey from Libya that saw them spend almost a week at sea after both Malta and Italy had initially closed their ports to them.

Although happy to be on dry land, the migrants told detention and support workers they had been hoping to make it to Italy.

“One of their main concerns is that they are not on mainland Europe. They’re happy to be alive, but not here,” a source said.

The rescued migrants, added the sources, were mostly disappointed they would not be meeting family members and friends who had dared the Mediterranean crossing and made it to the mainland. Still, they were happy not to be among those who had lost their lives.

“When we told them others had died during the crossing, one started crying and another admitted loudly he was lucky not to be out at sea,” they added.

Watch: Stop criminalising rescuers, causing mass grave, Maltese government is told

The Lifeline sailed into the Grand Harbour on Wednesday evening. Permission to berth in Senglea was given after eight EU member states agreed to jointly share the 234 migrants aboard the charity boat. The migrants were on Tuesday being processed at an reception centre in Marsa.

The ship’s captain, German national Claus-Peter Reisch, 57, was interviewed at police headquarters soon after it arrived. On Monday he was charged in court with sailing into Maltese waters without the necessary registration and licence. Malta has closed its ports to NGO rescue ships, a move denounced by humanitarian organisations.

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