The latest standoff involves 32 migrants who were rescued at sea on December 22 but have not yet been given permission to land anywhere.
“It's now been 14 days left alone at sea. A new record of shame,” the Mediterranea collective of aid groups and associations said on Twitter today, as it launched a mission to deliver aid to those stranded in stormy weather off the coast of Malta.
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.
“EU ministers continue to bargain over 32 human beings. We might look miserable, but they are pathetic,” German charity Sea Watch said.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF Sea) said there was “no justification for this degrading treatment”.
Every human being should be treated with dignity & respect. Right now, 49 people have been stranded at sea for up to 14 days while #EU States shamefully avoid their humanitarian responsibilities.
— MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) January 4, 2019
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.
It 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.
Migrants have frequently been left in limbo aboard ships that rescued them since Italy's populist anti-immigration government began turning them away last summer.
States must not delay offering a safe port to children, women and men on board #SeaWatch3 and #SeaEye any longer. Their health/safety should not be put at further risk by leaving them stranded at sea. Humanity and compassion must prevail. @seawatchcrew @seaeyeorg @coe @PACE_News
— Commissioner for Human Rights (@CommissionerHR) January 4, 2019
A help party including fresh crew members and German members of parliament sailed out to the vessel on Friday with supplies, including fresh water, for the people on board.
Among them are three unaccompanied adolescents and four women from Nigeria, Libya and Ivory Coast.
As the help party arrived, “one of the migrants threw himself into thewater in an attempt to swim to Malta”, said photographer Federico Scoppa, onboard.
“After a few meters, he gave up because of the cold and the current, and was dragged back to the ship using a lifebuoy,” Scoppa told AFP.
Photo: Federico Scoppa/AFP
The German NGO Sea-Eye also has a ship stranded in the Mediterranean with 17 migrants on board.
Italy, Malta, Spain and the Netherlands initially refused to take them in, although Germany and the Netherlands later said they would take some of them – on the condition that other nations did the same.
Several German and Italian cities have since offered to host them, with the mayor of Naples defying Italy's hardline interior minister by saying he would lead the operation to disembark them himself if they approached the coast.
In a joint statement with Mediterranea, it said Friday's aid mission aimed to “put pressure on Berlin, which has yet to give a positive answer to the dozens of German cities willing to take in those rescued”.
It also urged “European countries, beginning with Italy and Malta, to offer a safe port, as required under international law.”
Since coming to power more than six months ago, the Italian government has been demanding greater solidarity from reluctant fellow EU states.
But EU members have failed to agree on a permanent mechanism to relocate migrants who reach Europe's shores, even though arrivals have dropped sharply since a peak more than three years ago.
Some 113,482 migrants crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe last year, according to the UN refugee agency, which said 2,262 people lost their lives or went missing making the perilous journey.