Updated at 4.40pm
Eight people aboard a charity ship which has been stuck at sea for 11 days will be brought to Malta following a request for medical assistance, the Armed Forces said on Monday.
The people were taken off the Open Arms and transferred to an AFM vessel in the afternoon. They will be brought to Malta, disembarked at Hay Wharf and receive medical treatment.
Confirmation of the medical evacuation came several hours after the NGO tweeted that two women aboard the ship needed specialised medical care and would be taken off the vessel along with six other family members “in the coming hours”.
"Malta will take charge of this evacuation," the NGO had said.
Around 160 people have been stuck aboard the Spain-registered ship for more than a week, waiting for an EU state to allow them entry into its ports. On Friday, actor Richard Gere boarded the ship to appeal for a safe port for those on board.
“There will be more evacuations today, but the 151 people who will remain on the ship need a secure port now,” the NGO tweeted on Monday.
“Europe has abandoned them. It is an absolute lack of humanity”.
Former President, Children's Commissioner call for a solution
In a statement, the Commissioner for Children said the fundamental right to the health and safety of migrants stranded aboard the rescue vessel since August 2, especially that of the children and unaccompanied minors, trumped any diplomatic negotiations that are holding up their disembarkation in a safe port.
The Office of the Commissioner for Children said it was calling on all political actors concerned, at national and European level, to cooperate on a humanitarian level to ensure that these migrants were brought to safety and allowed to disembark.
In a separate statement, Maria Pisani, director of human rights organistation Integra, criticised the move for prioritising people "on the basis of perceived vulnerability and fragility."
"The decision to evacuate on this ‘grading’ of vulnerability is not one to praise," she said.
"Nobody should be forced to demonstrate weakness and helplessness in order to access rights."
Former President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca in a tweet urged European leaders to take action and said they should be ashamed of themselves thus far.
'All or nothing'
Thirty-nine people on board were picked up by the ship within Malta’s area of responsibility on Friday night, as a Maltese army patrol boat was on its way to rescue them.
On Saturday morning, Malta said that it had offered to take in the 39. The Open Arms however declined that offer, saying Malta should take in all the passengers aboard, or none at all.
The ship’s 121 other rescued passengers were saved off Libya’s coast 11 days ago. Italy immediately refused to allow the people in to Lampedusa and the Open Arms captain subsequently changed course and headed towards Malta.
Last week, the Spanish press quoted a Spanish government representative as saying the country had not asked the European Union to help resolve the crisis.
“We are not obliged to do that,” the spokesperson told Europa Press.
A European Commission spokesperson subsequently said the Commission had not been asked to mediate any resolution to the ongoing crisis.