A Danish oil tanker stranded in the Mediterranean Sea for the past 38 days after rescuing 27 migrants was able to transfer them to an NGO ship on Friday.
The 27 migrants, including one child and a pregnant woman, were transferred from Maersk Tankers' Etienne ship to the Mare Junio, a vessel operated by the Mediterranea NGO.
"We have been increasingly concerned for the rescued persons' physical and mental health following their prolonged stay onboard Maersk Etienne," the Danish company said in a statement.
It added that they requested Medieterranea's assistance to conduct health checks and that "the transfer to the ship occurred following their assessment that the rescued persons' condition called for immediate care in suitable medical facilities."
"Maersk Etienne will proceed to a suitable port where we will follow up with a debriefing of the crew and ensure they too get the care they need," it continued.
Mediterranea has however flagged that the migrants' fate remains uncertain and that they may spend more time stuck at sea.
"The Malta authorities, informed of our intervention, declare themselves "not responsible" and refuse to assign a safe port to the 27 people rescued by the Mare Junio from aboard the Maersk Etienne tanker. Once more, Malta violates international laws and the human rights," the NGO said on Twitter.
Earlier this week, the UN's Refugee Agency, the International Organisation for Migration and the International Chamber of Shipping issued a joint call for the "immediate disembarkation" of the 27 migrants from Maersk Etienne.
"Governments have been refusing permission for the ship's Master to disembark the migrants and refugees who fled Lybia, in contravention of international law."
"International law and maritime conventions place clear obligations on ships and coastal States to ensure people in distress are rescued and promptly disembarked in a place of safety. The Maersk Etienne fulfilled its responsibilities but now finds itself in a diplomatic game of pass the parcel," they also wrote.
According to their statement, the Maersk Etienne was the third merchant vessel to be stranded caring for people at sea so far this year — but the incident was by far the longest.
In May, the Marina was delayed by six days with some 80 rescued people onboard before being allowed to disembark, while in July the Talia was able to disembark the 50 people ti had rescued after four days.