Pope tells EU to stop bickering over migrant ships in Epiphany message

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By Pascale Davies  with REUTERS
Pope Francis is greeted by a migrant as he celebrates a mass for migrants
Pope Francis is greeted by a migrant as he celebrates a mass for migrants   -   Copyright  Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS

Pope Francis has called on EU leaders to stop squabbling over the fate of 49 migrants stuck on two rescue ships in the Mediterranean.

The Pontiff said in his Epiphany speech on Sunday: “I make a heartfelt appeal to European leaders to show concrete solidarity for these people.”

REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
Pope Francis leaves at the end of the Mass for the Feast of EpiphanyREUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Ha added, they were “seeking a safe port where they can disembark”.

Thirty-two people were rescued on December 22 from an unsafe boat off Libya's coast by the Sea-Watch 3 ship, run by a German humanitarian group. The vessel has three small children and four teenagers onboard.

Another ship, run by the same German group, Sea Eye, has 17 people on board who were rescued on December 29.

The dispute over where to let the migrants' dock is running between Italy and Malta. Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, said the country would take in woman and children but only if Malta let the ships dock.

As well as Pope Francis' call for a safe port of call for the migrants, Amnesty International and the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration have called on the EU to offer a safe port for both ships.

Multiple disputes between EU nations have occurred in the last year over where to let migrants dock. The Aquarius NGO ship, which was left stranded in the Mediterranean last summer, sparked international attention after Italy closed its ports to migrant ships.