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Open Arms: Situation of migrants stranded at sea is 'untenable' says European Commission

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Open Arms: Situation of migrants stranded at sea is 'untenable' says European Commission
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REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
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The European Commission has welcomed the news that six member states intend to take some of the migrants stranded on board Spanish NGO rescue ship Open Arms in the Mediterranean Sea.

"The Commission has been in intensive contact during the past week and we are very grateful for the cooperation of France, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, and Spain," said a spokeswoman on Friday during a press briefing.

The spokeswoman called the situation of having people stranded at sea for weeks on end "untenable".

The boat, however, continues in Italian waters near the island of Lampedusa as a battle between Italy's coalition has stopped it from docking.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini ordered officials to prevent the boat from disembarking the migrants, who were rescued off Libya 16 days ago, in defiance of Conte's orders and despite six EU countries agreeing to take some of the migrants.

In a tweet, the Open Arms crew said that six people requiring urgent medical attention were removed from the boat.

"We are witnessing the deterioration of the physical and mental health of the people on board, and given the extreme situation, we urgently request a humanitarian disembarkation at the port of Lampedusa," said the NGO's founder Oscar Campos.

The Commission urged that a "sustainable" solution be found to "ensure that people can disembark quickly and safely and receive the care they need," adding that this is not the responsibility of one member state but of "Europe as a whole".

"Of course we stand ready to fully support this operationally and financially," said the spokeswoman.

The Open Arms boat was allowed into Italian waters on Thursday after an administrative court in Rome overruled a ban on its entering that Salvini had previously imposed.

Openly challenging the Lega leader, who has so far dictated Italy’s immigration policy, Elisabetta Trenta said defying the court was illegal and that “politics must not lose its humanity.”

The ship's crew had previously said they would not try to enter the port without explicit permission — like another rescue ship, the Sea Watch 3 did in June, leading to the arrest of the ship's captain.