The situation of asylum seekers on board a ship currently stranded in Maltese waters has continued to deteriorate, with some of them now refusing food.
Sea-Watch, the NGO which runs the Sea-Watch 3 rescue vessel, warned European leaders of the situation in a Twitter update this afternoon.
“17th day at sea, and on board the SeaWatch we are reporting episodes of people refusing food,” the NGO said. “We fear that their psychological and health status may deteriorate significantly. We cannot believe that all this is happening a few miles from the European coasts.”
17th day at sea.
On board of #SeaWatch we are reporting episodes of people refusing food. We fear that their psychological and health status may deteriorate significantly. We cannot believe that all this is happening a few miles from the European coasts. pic.twitter.com/t2sr3po7ol
— Sea-Watch International (@seawatch_intl) January 7, 2019
The Sea-Watch 3 is currently carrying 32 asylum seekers, while the Sea-Eye is carrying a further 17. No EU country has agreed to take them in but Malta allowed them to enter its waters last week due to bad weather.
The situation has led to diplomatic tension between Italy and Malta, with Italy’s deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio accusing Malta of refusing to dock the ships despite them being in Maltese waters. The Maltese government retorted that the migrants had been rescued in an area that was outside Malta’s search and rescue region and that the ships only sought refuge in Maltese territorial waters after Italy denied them passage.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat insisted yesterday that Malta will not let take the migrants in, warning that such an act could set a precedent and risk turning the island into a centre for asylum seekers rescued by NGO-run vessels.
Pope Francis weighed in on the situation yesterday, urging European leaders to show concrete solidarity for the people on board and grant them a safe port where they can disembark.