The Malta Independent 15 August 2022, Monday

Updated (3): Sea-Eye vessel now heading to Majorca; Spain to seek EU assistance on migrants

Saturday, 6 April 2019, 09:53 Last update: about 4 years ago

A vessel with 64 migrants in now on its way to Majorca in Spain, with the migrants seto to disembark in the coming hours.

For a few hours earlier today, the vessel Alan Kurdi, run by NGO Sea-Eye, was on its way to Malta after Italy refused it entry into its waters.]

But Malta also resisted the idea of accepting the migrants and the vessel is now on its way to Spain.

The ship will need weather protection, drinking water and possibly food at the weekend, the NGO Sea-Eye said in its statement.

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There was no official reaction from the Maltese government, but The Malta Independent is informed that the vessel was not allowed entry into Maltese waters. Later, TMI was informed the vessel had changed course again and was going to Spain.

Italy offered to have children and their mothers disembark but they refused to abandon the fathers on board.

On Friday, Germany asked the European Union to find a safe port for the vessel.

Berlin has asked the European Commission, the EU's executive body, to coordinate the search for a safe port, said Stefan Ruwwe-Gloesenkamp, the spokesman for Germany's Interior Ministry.

He said Friday that Germany trusts "a large number of member states" will be prepared to take in migrants and Berlin is ready to do "its part."

EU spokeswoman Tove Ernst said the commission had initiated contacts among willing states, but said the renewed standoff illustrated the urgent need for "predictable arrangements for disembarkation."

The German humanitarian group Sea-Eye rescued the migrants off Libya on Wednesday when it could not reach the Libyan coast guard. It said the ship does not have enough room, food or water for the migrants and appealed to Berlin to use diplomatic channels to find a safe port.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said his ministry sent a letter Thursday to the German government telling them the ship cannot dock in Italy and asking them to intervene.

On Friday afternoon, however, Italy offered to evacuate two children and their mothers, but the women rejected the offer because they don't want to leave their husbands.

"The agreement with the federal Government was that the families would be evacuated," the Sea-Eye said in a tweet. "We will not be actively separating families! This is an emotional torture and endangers the best Interests of the children."

Salvini reacted to the news saying in a tweet that "at this point we can just wish them a good trip to Berlin."

The Italian minister, speaking Friday at a G-7 ministers' meeting in France, reaffirmed his anti-migrant stance, saying "that clearly not all NGOs, but some of them, are accomplices" in human trafficking.

Malta and Italy have been refusing to open their ports to humanitarian rescue ships, saying that the repeated rescues of migrants at sea encourages smugglers to pack them into unseaworthy rubber dinghies before they head out for Europe.

Salvini said Sea-Eye put the migrants' lives at risk by traveling north toward Europe after rescuing them 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Libyan coast.

However, international standards on sea rescues require that migrants be brought to a safe port.

The European Union and aid groups have declared that Libya does not meet the definition of a safe port due to ongoing lawlessness and reports of abuse, rape and torture inside migrant detention centers.

Militias in western Libya vowed Friday to confront a rival army commander's attempt to seize the capital, Tripoli, raising fears of renewed civil war in the oil-rich North African nation. The U.N. Security Council was holding an emergency closed-door meeting Friday on the renewed fighting in Libya.

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