Malta and Italy refuse doctor’s call to evacuate pregnant women from refugee rescue ship

Europe keeps the 278 people on board the Open Arms at sea without help for seven days

THE Maltese and Italian authorities have refused to evacuate two pregnant women and seven others with severe burns from a refugee rescue ship in the central Mediterranean as the weather worsens.

A doctor from medical charity Emergency called both countries’ authorities on Sunday from the Open Arms, a rescue ship operated by a Spanish charity of the same name.

In a statement late on Monday night, Emergency said that the nine people were in need of immediate hospital treatment and that the two pregnant women — one of whom is just 18 — were both experiencing nausea and weakness.

“Meanwhile, the situation on board is increasingly complex,” Emergency’s statement said.

“Weather conditions are worsening, all the people on board are in a precarious physical and psychological condition. Indeed, all of them have stories of torture and abuse as well as the trauma of crossing the sea.

“It is urgent and necessary that European governments take action and allow our guests to reach a safe place where they can be treated. This is to guarantee the rights enshrined both in international conventions and democratic constitutions.”

Rossella Miccio told the Star today that it was more urgent than ever for the Open Arms to be granted with a place to disembark the rescued.

“Europe cannot continue to force those fleeing war, torture and poverty to risk their lives and suffer for days in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.” Ms Miccio.

“Establishing safe and legal pathways and strengthening collaboration with civil society organisations should become the priority for European policy.”

The Open Arms is currently has 278 people on board, including 56 unaccompanied children, who were rescued last week in three missions, two of which were carried out in Malta’s search-and-rescue zone.

Today is its seventh day waiting for Italy or Malta to provide the ship with a port of safety.

Oscar Camps, the NGO’s founder, condemned Malta today for failing to protect the ship, its crew and the rescued refugees from the weather.

“Malta not only perverts international conventions and systematically violates maritime law but also aligns itself with a shameful complicity with Libya in the failure to provide relief at sea: a criminal omission,” Mr Camps wrote on Twitter above footage of wind buffeting the Open Arms.

Meanwhile, the EU-supported Libyan Coastguard returned 45 people to the war-torn country on Monday night, UN refugee agency the UNHCR reported this morning.

The survivors told the UNHCR that 22 others were missing, while the coastguard reportedly retrieved two bodies.

Elsewhere, journalists on the Greek island of Lesbos report that the authorities are preventing them from speaking to the 11,000 refugees made homeless last week when the Moria migrant camp burnt down.

UPDATE 21:40: The Italian coastguard has now taken the two pregnant women and the husband of one of them to Sicily.


Above image of women and children on board the Open Arms by Open Arms

Published by Ben Cowles

Is a journalist and podcaster

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