Organizations call for immediate disembarkation of stranded migrants outside Malta's waters

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VALLETTA, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- Three international organizations on Monday called for the immediate disembarkation of 27 rescued migrants stranded onboard a cargo ship for more than a month.

The migrants, who were rescued on Aug. 5, have been denied disembarkation in both Italy and Malta and the Maersk Etienne has since been anchored just outside Malta's territorial waters. The ship's crew has been sharing food, water and blankets with those rescued.

In a statement, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) called on governments to intervene to help the distraught group, including one child and a pregnant woman.

"A commercial vessel is not a safe environment for these vulnerable people and they must be immediately brought to a safe port," said the statement.

The ICS said it had urged the International Maritime Organization to urgently intervene and "send a clear message that states must ensure that Maritime Search and Rescue incidents are resolved in accordance with the letter and spirit of international law."

The Maersk Etienne fulfilled its responsibilities, but now finds itself in a diplomatic game of passing the parcel, it said.

"The absence of a clear, safe, and predictable disembarkation mechanism for people rescued in the Mediterranean, continues to pose an avoidable risk to life," said IOM Director General Antonio Vitorino.

"The conditions are rapidly deteriorating onboard, and we can no longer sit by while governments ignore the plight of these people," said Guy Platten, Secretary General of the ICS.

The Maersk Etienne is the third incident this year in which a merchant vessel has been stranded due to caring for people rescued at sea.

In May, the Marina was delayed for six days with some 80 rescued people on board before being able to disembark, while in July, the Talia took four days out of its scheduled journey to care for 50 people who were finally allowed to disembark in a place of safety after four days. Enditem

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