Catholic organisations have joined the chorus of approval of the Maltese Government’s decision to receive the 356 migrants and refugees stranded for two weeks in the Mediterranean on the Ocean Viking rescue ship.

But they have warned that political foot-dragging continues to put lives at risk.

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The Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking, with its more than 300 souls on board, had been caught in the latest standoff between Italy and Malta on immigration.

For 14 days both countries refused the rescue ship permission to dock.

But late Friday night, the Maltese Government sent an armed forces patrol boat to bring them to the Hay Wharf maritime base.

That was following an European Commission-brokered agreement between Portugal, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Romania to redistribute the migrants.


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Go deeper

Though they welcomed the end to the standoff, a number of Catholic and civil NGOs from Malta urged the European Union to come to a common policy on migrant and refugee rescue, and not just rely on ad-hoc solutions.

“Once again” with the Ocean Viking crisis, “the European Member States dragged their feet and unnecessarily prolonged human suffering”, the NGOs lamented in a statement signed by Catholic Voices Malta and the Malta branch of the Jesuit Refugee Service, among others.

“The principles of solidarity, considered to be a cornerstone of the Union, must take front and centre – first and foremost with those risking their lives to access protection”, the organisations warned.

They added that EU solidarity must be extended to “the external border Member States who cannot be expected to continue carrying the consequences of political inadequacy and deadlock at the European level”.

“We remind the Member States of their legal, political and moral responsibilities and call on them to do much better”, the NGOs concluded.