Date: Thursday, 04 April 2019
FILE - In this April 3, 2019 file photo, migrants on a rubber dinghy are approached by the Sea-Eye rescue ship in the waters off Libya. The humanitarian ship Sea-Eye with 64 rescued migrants aboard was stuck at sea on Thursday as Italy and Malta refuse it safe harbor as their refusal set the stage for another Mediterranean standoff that can only be resolved if European governments agree to accept the asylum-seekers. (Fabian Heinz/Sea-eye.org via AP)
ROME (AP) — A humanitarian aid ship with 64 rescued migrants aboard was stuck at sea Thursday as Italy and Malta refused it safe harbor, leaving migrants sleeping in cramped conditions on deck as a storm approached.
The governments' refusal sets the stage for another Mediterranean standoff that can only be resolved if European governments agree to accept the asylum-seekers.
Carlotta Weibl, spokeswoman for the German humanitarian organization Sea-Eye, said the ship was near the Italian island of Lampedusa on Thursday.
"We have no idea yet where we can disembark, Weibl told The Associated Press. "Malta says we can't enter their waters and we are unlikely to get permission from Italy."
Sea-Eye's ship, the Alan Kurdi, rescued the migrants on Wednesday near Libya after Libyan authorities could not be reached. It did so as it was looking for another boat with 50 migrants missing since Monday and 40 migrants missing since last week.
"The chances are low that they are alive," Weibl said.
The 64 who were picked up included five children and a newborn baby, the group said. But Weibl said the ship is far too small for so many people and that people were sleeping outdoors on deck as it began to rain and a storm was approaching.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Wednesday that Italy would not accept the migrants and that the German ship should "go to Hamburg."
But Weibl, said "it's a journey of three to four weeks. We don't have food and water, so it's completely out of the question."
Similar standoffs in recent months involving rescue ships hoping to reach Italy and Malta were eventually resolved when other EU members agreed to take some of the migrants.
However, many of those people still remain stuck in migrant centers in Malta and Italy.
The Alan Kurdi ship is named after a 3-year-old Kurdish boy who drowned in the sea in 2015 as he and his family fled war in Syria. The image of his small lifeless body washed ashore prompted an outpouring of sympathy for the plight of migrants.
However, the mood in Europe has since turned against those making the dangerous journey. Weibl said that currently, the Alan Kurdi is the only humanitarian ship operating in the Mediterranean because many governments have denied aid ships the permission to operate.
Gera reported from Warsaw, Poland.