The 47 migrants stuck on a German charity rescue boat off the coast of Sicily should ‘immediately’ be allowed to disembark in Italy, three UN agencies said Saturday.
The migrants have been on the Sea-Watch 3, a Dutch-flagged vessel run by German non-governmental organization Sea Watch, since they were rescued in the Mediterranean on January 19.
‘The situation on board is critical,’ the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and UN children agency UNICEF said in a joint statement.
They noted that some migrants are exposed to the winter elements as there is insufficient space inside the boat, and expressed particular concern for the 13 minors among them.
‘It is therefore urgent for the migrants and refugees aboard the 'Sea-Watch 3' to be immediately granted disembarkation in the nearest port,’ the UN agencies said.
Sea-Watch spokeswoman Federica Mameli said there were no serious medical cases, but added that migrants were ‘all exhausted from 8 days in high seas.’ On Friday, the NGO boat was allowed to enter Italian waters and station near the coast of Syracuse, eastern Sicily, to seek shelter from rough seas, but was not given permission to dock at port.
Italy's populist government has called on the Netherlands to take in the migrants, on the grounds that the Sea-Watch 3 has a Dutch flag, but the request was turned down.
The Netherlands could accept some migrants only if those among them with no asylum rights in Europe were immediately repatriated, Dutch Migration Minister Mark Harbers told the Corriere della Sera daily.
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