Last updated 7pm with Dutch government statement -
The Netherlands announced on Wednesday it was prepared to welcome some of the 32 migrants waiting to disembark from a Dutch-flagged vessel off Malta if other countries did the same.
The vessel - the Sea Watch 3 - earlier on Wednesday was allowed by Malta to enter its waters to shelter from a storm. The migrants were taken on board the ship on December 22 after being rescued off Libya.
"The Netherlands has indicated a readiness to possibly take in a proportional number of migrants who are on board Sea-Watch 3, on condition that other European countries do the same," said security and justice ministry spokesman Lennart Wegewijs.
These were the positions of the #NGO vessels #Seawatch3 and #ProfAlbrechtPenek when they conducted interceptions of migrants who are still on board. #Malta was neither the appropriate nor the competent SAR Authority pic.twitter.com/erZa6DBeEN— Michael Farrugia (@dr_micfarr) January 2, 2019
The Dutch had at first joined Italy, Malta and Spain in refusing to accept the migrants who were rescued on December 22 by Sea-Watch 3, which is operated by a German charity.
"Negotiations coordinated by the European Commission are underway between the different European countries," Wegewijs told AFP. "We are seeking a solution to this situation."
Earlier on Wednesday, the medical team on board the ship reported that conditions were deteriorating, with food and water running out and many of those on board suffering severe seasickness.
The ship rescued 32 migrants on December 22, but no country has agreed to receive them.
The team said that although its 'guests' were in relatively good condition when they were picked up, the ship was not equipped for long-term support and accommodation. The food on board, which was starting to run out, was meant for short-term use and did not contain enough nutrients and fibre.
"This makes the guests more vulnerable to seasickness as well as to any infectious disease," the team said.
Worsening sea conditions also meant many of the migrants were suffering from severe seasickness, and they were especially worried about the three children on board, aged one, six and seven.
Owing to the bad sea conditions, the team said it had been forced to 'pack' the migrants into a dry, small area inside the ship, but this caused retraumatisation for some of them suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"The prolonged uncertainty is putting them under a lot of tension. Many of them are losing their trust in our operation, which is limiting our possibilities of providing mental aid and thereby endangering the security of the entire ship," the medical team said.
After #NewYear was cancelled for us due to bad weather, the wind and waves allowed us a short break. We tried to make it comfortable for everyone and hosted a movie night in the jam-packed recovery area. But break's over now: The storm is returning – we still need a #PortofSafety pic.twitter.com/XfraJtCCoN— Sea-Watch International (@seawatch_intl) January 2, 2019
The situation was also bad for the crew, who had been on board for three weeks and were now exhausted.
The team said the situation could not be sustained for much longer.
"Since we still have no port of safety we kindly ask you to grant us shelter within your territorial waters to stabilise the situation on board. From our professional point of view, the factual situation is a failure to render assistance," the team said.
300 academics call on EU states to assume shared responsibility for refugees and migrants
On Wednesday afternoon, 300 academics in an unprecedented joint initiative, called on EU member states to assume shared responsibility for migrants rescued at sea.
Noting how the situation on board the Sea Watch 3 was becoming desperate, the academics called on the EU and its member states to support the life-saving work of search and rescue vessels, to open ports for safe disembarkation, and to assume shared responsibility for refugees and migrants saved at sea.
"The present situation is untenable, perilous and inhumane. Immediate action is required," the academics said.
On Monday, Philipp Hahn, Head of Mission on the Sea-Watch 3, told Times of Malta that it was utterly unscrupulous that no single European state was taking responsibility for the migrants. In Germany alone, more than 30 cities have accepted to take some of the people.
"The fact that we are still at sea is a confession of failure for each and every EU member state," he said.
On Wednesday, the Mayor of Palermo was also quoted as being ready to receive the migrants and others on board the ship SeaEye.
Maltese NGOs insist the migrants should be allowed to disembark
Separately, a group of Maltese NGOs said the lack of solidarity among EU member states was not only disappointing, but also demonstrated a disturbing disdain for their legal, ethical and moral responsibilities towards each other, and more importantly, towards the most vulnerable.
The NGOs praised the Maltese Armed Forces who have been engaged in a number of rescue operations over the Christmas period. Far from international headlines, the Government of Malta had opened its port and provided haven to those in desperate need of safety and security.
"Libya is not, and must not be a port of return. We call upon the Member States to support the work of the humanitarian search and rescue vessels, to share responsibility for all asylum seekers entering the EU, regardless of port of entry, and to enable access to safety and protection throughout the EU," the NGOs said.
Referring to the migrants on the Sea Watch 3, the NGOs said their situation was unacceptable, dangerous and inhumane. "The
conditions onboard are deteriorating rapidly. We call upon the Government of Malta to prioritise life, to open its port and to let them in," the NGOs said.
The statement was signed by the aditus foundation, African Media Association, the Critical Institute, the Christian Life Community (CLC) Malta, the Cross Culture International Foundation, Drachma, Department for Inclusion and Access to Learning - Faculty of Education University of Malta, Kummissjoni Gustizzja u Paci, the Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service Malta, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, MGRM - Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement, Moviment Graffitti, People for Change Foundation, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM), Solidarity with Migrant Group, SOS Malta, Spark 15, Women's Rights Foundation.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us