Malta and other European Member States have not made any formal requests to the European Commission to coordinate efforts to resolve the plight of some 500 asylum seekers stranded at sea on two civil search and rescue vessels.
A spokeswoman for the European Commission told Newsbook.com.mt that the Commission is monitoring the events in the Central Mediterranean closely.
The spokeswoman explained that at this stage the Commission did not receive any formal requests from a Member State to coordinate solidarity efforts for the persons on board the Open Arms vessel. She added that the Commission has reached out to Member States asking them to show solidarity and contribute to finding a quick solution.
Asked about the asylum seekers on board the Ocean Viking, the spokeswoman for the Commission said that their situation was also raised in its contacts with Member States.
The spokeswoman reiterated that it will do its utmost to help find a solution among member states. Over the past year the Commission has coordinated various ad hoc agreements between Member States, where migrants were disembarked in a Member State and be redistributed to other member states.
“Finding solutions however ultimately depends on the willingness of Member States to take part in solidarity efforts, the Commission has no competence to indicate places for disembarkation or coordinate Search and Rescue,” the spokeswoman said as she reiterated the Commission call to show solidarity and contribute to swift resolutions.
On Tuesday morning the Armed Forces of Malta released an image which showed a lifeless body of a migrant in a blue rubber boat and a second migrant kneeling over him. The latter was transferred to hospital where he was found to be in a critical condition. The AFM coordinated a search and rescue operation on Tuesday evening after being alerted about a boat in distress. The man was already dead when the AFM arrived to the boat.
Some of the asylum seekers on board the Spanish-flagged charity vessel Open Arms have been stranded for twelve days, after both Malta and Italy denied the vessel entry. During the latest medical evacuations which took place from the boat which was requested for two women, eight individuals were brought over to Malta.
Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking rescued 356 asylum seekers in separate rescue operations during its first mission.