Malta bars entry to German migrant charity vessel

VALLETTA: Maltese authorities have barred a German humanitarian vessel with 65 migrants on board from docking on the island, the Armed Forces of Malta said Sunday.
“They have no permit to enter Maltese territorial waters,” an army spokesman told dpa.
Sea-Eye’s vessel is carrying shipwrecked migrants rescued off Libya on Friday.
The Alan Kurdi – named after a 3-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned off the Turkish coast in September 2015 – attempted to dock on the Italian island of Lampedusa but it was prevented from doing so by Italy’s hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
“The Guardia di Finanza came by in person to deliver Salvini’s decree: The port is closed,” the NGO said.
In a tweet, Sea-Eye said: “In the evening, the Alan Kurdi changed its course towards Malta. We cannot wait until the state of emergency prevails. Now it has to be proven whether the European governments stand by Italy’s attitude. Human lives are not a bargaining chip.”
The Maltese army said the vessel has not yet requested emergency supplies.
Sea-Eye spokeswoman Carlotta Weibl told dpa there are no medical emergencies, but the people are in a weak physical state.
“We are sure that Malta will provide us a safe port once Germany and other EU states offer to receive the people. We expect that Malta will not be left alone with this,” Weibl said.
The development comes a day after NGO Mediterranea’s Italian-flagged Alex boat defied Salvini’s orders and took in 41 shipwrecked migrants into the port of Lampedusa island.
Alessandra Sciurba, a spokeswoman for Mediterranea, confirmed in a press conference that the boat had been impounded by police and the charity was fined for trespassing into Italian territorial waters.
She did not say the amount, but a recent Italian law says migrant boats that make unauthorized entries in Italian waters should face fines of 10,000-50,000 euros (11,200-56,000 dollars).
Noting that it was the second time Italian authorities have impounded a Mediterranea vessel, Sciurba said: “it’s clear that we are facing difficulties […] but we have no intention to stop.”
A doctor for Mediterranea said the migrants, some of whom had scabies, were visited after disembarkation and taken to Lampedusa’s migrant reception centre.
The Italian government had asked the Alex to take the migrants to Malta, but Mediterranea refused, saying the 11-hour journey would have been too long and dangerous.
The sail boat had around 60 people on board, despite a legal capacity of 18. Mediterranea said Salvini’s ministry nixed proposals to have the migrants taken to Malta by other vessels. — dpa