Stranded NGO vessels allowed to enter Maltese waters as EU states discuss migrant relocation

The two vessels have been requesting a safe port of call in the face of deteriorating weather conditions • A number of children are among the rescued migrants

The Sea-Watch 3 has been carrying a group of 32 rescued migrants for 11 days
The Sea-Watch 3 has been carrying a group of 32 rescued migrants for 11 days

Two NGO rescue vessels, the Sea-Watch 3 and the Professor Albrecht Penck have entered Maltese territorial waters after authorities accepted a request by the two vessels.

The vessels have been granted permission to seek shelter in Maltese waters but not to dock. A request was made as weather conditions at sea continue to deteriorate.

The Sea-Watch 3 is currently carrying 32 migrants, who where rescued on 22 December. An additional 17 migrants were rescued by the Prof Albrecht Penck.

The German NGO Sea Watch has, over the past 12 days, repeatedly appealed to EU member states for permission to disembark its passengers, however this has not yet been granted.

The two vessels are currently situation within Maltese territorial waters
The two vessels are currently situation within Maltese territorial waters

Government sources who spoke with MaltaToday said that Malta was currently engaged in discussions with a number of other EU member states for the redistribution of the migrants, but said that an agreement had not yet been reached.

The Sea-Watch 3 was granted permission to come closer to Malta after a request by the vessel’s medical crew said its passengers were growing increasingly vulnerable to sickness as well as infectious disease.

 “Due to the long stay on board of Sea-Watch 3, as well as the bad and still deteriorating weather conditions, many of the guests are suffering from severe sickness,” the crew said in a request for shelter.

READ MORE: 49 migrants still stranded on NGO rescue boats as Maltese army saves 249 migrants

“For a malnourishes, weakened person, the resulting dehydration may be life-threatening, especially when combined with hypothermia.”

The medical crew added that they were “especially worried” about the three children onboard.

The crew said the ship was running out of fresh water and food supplies, with a number of crew members also falling ill. 

On Monday, the UNHCR appealed to European states to “urgently” offer the vessel a safe port.

“Decisive leadership is required, in line with fundamental values of humanity and compassion, to offer safe disembarkation and bring the 49 safely to land,” Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean, said. “Negotiations on which States will subsequently receive them must come only after they are safely ashore.”

The UNHCR also called for an end to the boat-by-boat approach adopted by European countries since Italy’s closure of its ports last year to private migrant rescue vessels.

European academics call on member states to take responsibility 

Meanwhile, a group of 322 academics from various European institutions have called on member states called on member states to assume shared responsibility for the refugees.

“To date, not a single member state has stepped up and offered refuge. The conditions are deteriorating and the situation is desperate,” the academics said in a brief statement.

“We call upon the EU and its member states to support the life-saving work of search and rescue vessels, to open ports for safe disembarkation, and to assume shared responsibility for refugees and migrants saved at sea.”

They said the current situation was untenable, perilous and inhumane and that immediate action was required.

The full list of academics who signed the statement can be viewed in the link below.

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