The Sea-Watch 3, which has 32 rescued migrants on board, was on Wednesday given permission to move closer to Malta so that the vessel could take shelter from bad weather that is closing in on the islands, The Malta Independent can confirm.
The vessel, operated by the German NGO Sea-Watch, rescued the migrants following a distress call on 22 December, 12 days ago, and has been stranded at sea ever since as no nation has acceded to their request for a safe port to disembark the migrants.
Sea-Watch was initially confined to sitting 24 nautical miles outside of Malta however, given the bad weather that is approaching the islands and the area around it, permission for the boat to move to within 12 nautical miles of Malta was granted on Wednesday.
There are four women, three unaccompanied minors, two young children and a baby amongst the 32 rescued migrants onboard the Sea-Watch 3, along with 22 crew members.
Only days prior to the New Year, the boat had received a distress call from the Italian Coastguard’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Rome directing them to another boat of migrants, thought to be consisting of around 75 onboard, however they were unable to locate them and eventually abandoned their search. It is not known what happened to the migrants since the search was abandoned.
Another NGO vessel, the Professor Albrecht Penck, operated by Sea-Eye and holding onboard another 17 migrants is also close to Malta taking shelter from the adverse weather conditions. It is currently holding station off the southwestern coast of the island, close to the island of Filfla. The migrants onboard were rescued a week after those on the Sea-Watch 3 were – on 29 December.
These were the positions of the #NGO vessels #Seawatch3 and #ProfAlbrechtPenek when they conducted interceptions of migrants who are still on board. #Malta was neither the appropriate nor the competent SAR Authority pic.twitter.com/erZa6DBeEN
— Michael Farrugia (@dr_micfarr) January 2, 2019
In a tweet, Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia said Malta was not responsible for the rescue missions. Maps he uploaded show that the migrants were intercepted by the Sea Watch 3 and the Prof Albrecht Penek 179 and 183 nautical miles from Malta respectively. They were close to the Libyan coast.
“These were the positions of the #NGO vessels #Seawatch3 and #ProfAlbrechtPenek when they conducted interceptions of migrants who are still on board. #Malta was neither the appropriate nor the competent SAR Authority,” Farrugia tweeted.
On Monday, a spokesperson for Sea-Watch said that Malta was negotiating a redistribution of the migrants across Europe, but a joint statement from Sea-Watch and Sea-Eye issued on the same day, whilst understanding the need for such an agreement, called for both vessels to be allowed into port whilst the negotiations are ongoing so to ensure the safety of all those onboard.
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of Malta over the course of the New Year rescued 249 migrants in three separate operations, bringing all three groups to Malta.
Academics call on Member States to assume shared responsibility
In a statement, over 300 academics from around the European Union called for action by EU member states. “49 refugees and migrants remain stranded in the Mediterranean Sea, some of them have now been out there for 12 days. To date, not a single Member State has stepped up and offered refuge. The conditions are deteriorating and the situation is desperate.
We call upon the European Union 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.
The present situation is untenable, perilous and inhumane. Immediate action is required,” they said.
Back to: Malta Blog