The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

Watch: 70 migrants on ship awaiting OK to land jump into sea; NGO says Malta refuses entry

Associated Press Friday, 18 September 2020, 08:23 Last update: about 2 months ago

More than 70 migrants on a rescue ship awaiting permission to dock in southern Italy jumped into the sea in frustration Thursday and were picked up by Italian authorities off Palermo, a Spanish humanitarian group said.

The group's ship, which is also called Open Arms, had been carrying some 280 migrants and refugees rescued last week in the central Mediterranean as they tried to reach European shores in flimsy boats. Video showed the migrants who jumped wearing life jackets.

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Ten of the Open Arms migrants had also needed to be rescued on Wednesday after they jumped into the sea off Sicily’s southern coast, when they were informed that nearby Malta had refused them entry, the NGO said. The ship then headed for Palermo, on Sicily's northern coast, where it awaited instructions on where to disembark its passengers.

On Monday, Italy allowed 27 migrants who had spent some 40 days aboard a Danish tanker to be brought to land aboard an Italian humanitarian rescue ship. The tanker had rescued them from the central Mediterranean after their vessel sank.

Humanitarian groups complain that the European Union is abandoning migrants making the dangerous sea crossing from North Africa. They say that the EU is instead bolstering the Libyan Coast Guard, with the goal of preventing migrants from departing the lawless country where many complain they have faced torture.

Maltese Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo, said Thursday that his small island nation is unable to take in any more migrants and refugees. Speaking after a meeting with his Spanish counterpart on Madrid, Bartolo said it was up to the EU to set up a system to deal with migrants rescued by NGOs or merchant ships.

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