The Sea-Watch 3 on the Mediterranean | Photo: Reuters/D. Zammit Lupi
The Sea-Watch 3 on the Mediterranean | Photo: Reuters/D. Zammit Lupi

The German NGO Sea-Watch reported that migrants onboard its rescue vessel have started to accept food again, but their physical and mental health has taken a terrible toll. The migrants currently off the Maltese coast have been stranded at sea for 18 days.

The Sea-Watch and the Sea-Eye migrant rescue boats are still stranded in the Mediterranean Sea, awaiting permission to dock on European land.

The boats combined to rescue a total of 49 migrants in December and have been refused permission to dock in Italy and Malta. The boats are located just off the coast of Malta. 

Tensions on the boats remain high as some of the migrants refused to eat on Monday, according to Sea-Watch. Sea-Watch spokeswoman Giorgia Linardi said the migrants were crammed into a small room and became sick during rough seas.

The migrants on board started to eat again according to a Tuesday tweet, but were upset with European countries that have blocked their attempts to dock on shore.

Looking for land

The German government said Monday that it was still looking for a port for the rescue ships. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert called for "a permanent, European, united solution, and to not restart new negotiations with every new ship that brings refugees to a Mediterranean port," according to dpa.

One diplomatic source told AFP that France, Germany, Luxembourg Malta, the Netherlands and Portugal were willing to accept some of the migrants. Romania has also said they were willing to take in five migrants, according to the source. Romania currently holds the six-month rotating EU presidency.

Italian rejection

But Italy and Malta have repeatedly refused to give the rescue vessels permission to dock on their shores. Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini told AFP on Monday, "I don't understand why...if there are 49 people in Maltese waters on German and Dutch boats, it's still the problem of the Italians."

Several Italian mayors and governors who are opposed to tough measures on asylum seekers are attempting to challenge the laws in court. The new law in Italy states asylum seekers are prevented from gaining residency, which is necessary to apply for public housing and access to Italy's national health care system.

Piedmont Governor Sergio Chiamparino told Sky TG24 TV on Monday that he will ask Italy's constitutional court to determine whether this law violates the constitution. Chiamparino added that he would join Tuscany's Governor, Enrico Rossi, in the court challenge. Chiamparino said his region would continue to provide health care for asylum seekers, telling AP that "we are simply obeying a fundamental principle that someone with a health problem gets treatment."

The mayors of Palermo, Naples and some smaller cities said last week that they would not implement the law. However, some mayors, including Milan's said they would implement the law despite being critical of it.


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