A humanitarian ship with 64 rescued migrants aboard was stuck at sea on Thursday as Italy and Malta refuse it safe harbor.
Their refusal sets the stage for another Mediterranean standoff that can only be resolved if European governments agree to accept the asylum-seekers.
Carlotta Weibl, spokeswoman for the German humanitarian organization Sea-Eye, said shortly before noon Thursday that the ship was near the Italian island of Lampedusa.
“Malta says we can’t enter their waters and we are unlikely to get permission from Italy,” she told The Associated Press by phone.
Sea-Eye’s ship, the Alan Kurdi, rescued the migrants on Wednesday near Libya. It did so as it was looking for a boat with 50 migrants missing since Monday and 40 migrants missing since last week.
“The chances are low that they are alive,” Weibl said.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Wednesday that Italy would not accept the migrants and that the German ship should “go to Hamburg.”
But Weibl said “it’s a journey of 3-4 weeks. We don’t have food and water, so it’s completely out of the question.”
Similar standoffs in recent months involving rescue ships hoping to reach Italy and Malta were eventually resolved when other EU members agreed to take some of the migrants.
However, many of those people still remain stuck in migrant centers in Malta and Lampedusa.
The Alan Kurdi ship is named after a Kurdish boy who drowned in the sea at the age of 3 in 2015 as he and his family fled war in Syria. An image of his small lifeless body prompted an outpouring of sympathy for the plight of migrants.
However, since then the mood in Europe has turned against helping migrants. Weibl said that at the moment, the Alan Kurdi is the only humanitarian ship operating in the Mediterranean because many governments have denied aid ships the permission to operate.