UPDATE 2-"We are not fish": Migrants stranded at sea grow frustrated
The Sea-Watch 3, a vessel run by a German humanitarian group, plucked 32 people from an unsafe boat off the coast of Libya on Dec. 22, including three small children who are suffering from seasickness and four teenagers, who are travelling alone.
The vessel is now in Maltese waters sheltering from high winds and rough seas. In an act of desperation, one migrant jumped into the frigid waters on Friday, trying to swim for shore, but was quickly pulled back on board by the crew.
"We are here on this boat and we do not understand what is happening," Bob Kiangala, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, told Reuters.
"We are not fish, we are not sharks, we are human beings like everyone else. We made this crossing, we risked our lives to get to Europe, and now that we have arrived, Europe refuses, and we do not know why," he said.
This week almost two dozen humanitarian groups, including Amnesty International and the United Nations' International Organization for Migration, called on the European Union to offer a safe port to both vessels.
Until June last year, Italy took in almost all of the migrants rescued by humanitarian groups, but since then the new populist coalition government's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who leads the anti-immigrant League party, has closed the ports to rescue ships.
In a surprising move, Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, leader of the 5-Star Movement, said on Friday that Italy would welcome the women and children if Malta allowed the ships to dock. Salvini's office had no immediate comment.
"Malta should allow the immediate disembarkation of women and children and send them to Italy," Di Maio wrote on Facebook. "Children shouldn't pay the price of a Europe that turns its back so it cannot see."
In recent months Spain and Malta have agreed to take in some rescued migrants, but often not before long negotiations with other EU countries. As a consequence, most humanitarian groups have abandoned sea rescue efforts.
Crew members on the Sea-Watch 3 are in good spirits but tired, getting an average of about five hours sleep a night, and the migrants, many of whom endured months of abuse in Libya after making a dangerous desert crossing, are showing signs of stress and mental fatigue, Sea-Watch's head of mission, Philipp Hahn, said.
Sixteen-year-old Achuil Abdallah, who set off alone from his native South Sudan, said he is relieved to have escaped Libya and now is just hoping to reach dry land: "We all need help."
(Additional reporting by Angelo Amante, Writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
- 69th BIFF: European Film Market officials interested to work with India
- Russia wants European countries to reap benefits of Nord Stream 2
- European stocks almost steady on pessimism led by slowdown concerns
- EaseMyTrip offers amazing discounts during Valentine’s
- Norway's wealth fund offers clarification on real estate investments