Pope appeals for migrants stranded on rescue ships

  • (Updated )



Source: Vatican Media/MSF

Pope Francis launched a "heartfelt appeal" to European leaders on Sunday for "concrete solidarity" with 49 migrants stranded aboard rescue ships in the Mediterranean Sea. Two humanitarian boats belonging to the NGOs Sea-Watch3 and Sea Eye, picked up the migrants as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

"I would like to make a heartfelt appeal to the leaders of Europe to demonstrate real solidarity with these people," the Pope said.

"Sea Watch 3 is not suitable for keeping women, men, and children in need of assistance and a haven for a long time. Our doctors are concerned," the NGOs Tweeted.

But Italy is maintaining its migration policy. "We will not retreat on the migration policy, which has allowed us to considerably reduce landings" said Italy's deputy premier, Luigi Di Maio.

He went to concede: "When it comes to women and children we are ready to give a lesson to all of Europe and to welcome them.. There are women and children a mile from the Maltese coast for the last 14 days and the EU puts its head in the sand and Malta does not do its duty. It is a shameful thing," he said.

But so far, none of the migrants has been allowed ashore. Three children, aged one, six and seven, "are vomiting continuously, and are at risk of hypothermia and dehydration," said Alessandro Metz of Mediterranea, an initiative which aims to protect migrant rights at sea.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF Sea) said there was "no justification for this degrading treatment".

The Sea-Watch 3, a Dutch-flagged vessel which pulled the migrants to safety nearly two weeks ago, was on Wednesday given permission by Malta to shelter off its coast from the fierce winds - but not to land. No other European country has yet given permission for the migrants to step ashore.

This is the latest of a string of incidents involving people rescued at sea but left stranded in the Mediterranean, that has thrown a harsh spotlight on the ongoing deadlock within the European Union over sharing responsibility for migrants.

People have frequently been left in limbo aboard ships that rescued them since Italy's populist anti-immigration government began turning them away last summer.

Tags: Refugees, Migrants, Pope Francis, Malta,

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