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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 July 2018

German far-right wants migrant rescue ships impounded

The AFD calls for sea route to be 'closed' to Africans trying to reach Europe

The migrant vessel 'Lifeline' in the Mediterranean this week. Both Italy and Malta have denied the ship an entry to one of their country's ports. EPA
The migrant vessel 'Lifeline' in the Mediterranean this week. Both Italy and Malta have denied the ship an entry to one of their country's ports. EPA

The far-right Alternative for Germany party is calling for private ships rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean Sea to be impounded.

Deputy party leader Georg Pazderski on Wednesday accused groups such as the one that operates the German vessel Lifeline of being "accomplices" to people smugglers operating in the Mediterranean.

Mr Pazderski said his party wants the sea route "closed" to migrants and any people picked up en route to be "taken back to Africa immediately".

AFD came third in last year's German election, buoyed by a wave of anti-migrant sentiment following the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers since 2015. Most of the migrants fled wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, but a sizeable number were also trying to escape poverty in Africa.

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Malta has confirmed that the Lifeline has permission to enter its waters to shelter from rough seas, but not its ports.

German humanitarian group Mission Lifeline said on Twitter on Wednesday that it had received permission to enter Maltese waters to seek protection from high winds.

Permission was confirmed by Maltese Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia. The ship until now has been in a contiguous zone, a band of water still under Malta's responsibility, but at the outer edge of territorial seas.

Lifeline is still waiting for permission to make port and disembark more than 200 migrants, some of whom the humanitarian group say are in a fragile state of health. The boat has been in a holding pattern for six days after Italy refused to grant safe harbour.

A German lawmaker says conditions on the migrant rescue ship denied landing in Malta are deteriorating, as the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Manuel Sarrazin, a German Green party lawmaker who's in regular contact with the Lifeline and its supporters, said on Wednesday that the crew were close to declaring a medical emergency overnight for two of the more than 200 migrants on board.

Sarrazin said that "doctors on board were able to stabilise them so the evacuation, which would have been very dangerous, didn't have to take place".

He said the passengers are suffering from severe sea sickness because of rough seas, adding: "They are at risk of dehydration. It's been clear for days that the situation could get worse. There needs to be a solution soon."