Pope urges European Union to help 49 stranded migrants

NGOs slam ‘pathetic’ politicians as migrant families are left stranded at sea

Pope Enters Fray Over Migrant Ships, Appeals for Safe Ports

Amid growing concern over the plight of the migrants, some of whom have been at sea for more than two weeks, the European Commission earlier this week called on EU member states to admit them.

But both Italy and Malta, who have refused port access to the rescue vessels, on Sunday reiterated their positions.

Another ship run by the German group Sea-Eye is carrying 17 people rescued on 29 December.

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But Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who leads the anti-immigrant League party and has closed ports to rescue ships, opposes this.

Issuing a "heartfelt appeal" in a public address in the Vatican, the Pope said the migrants needed "a safe port".

"Irregular immigration is a national priority that needs help from a European level and therefore Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is duty bound to persuade as he had pledged other Prime Ministers within his political group that a mandatory burden sharing system between European Union countries needs to be implemented, especially in these exceptional circumstances".

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"The situation is becoming more unstable every day, the level of stress is rising", added Franck Doerner, a doctor on board, via a video message.

Spain's maritime rescue service says it saved 549 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

"It is easy to play the Christmas Saint with everyone, but then come January, February and the summer period we would be told to do the same".

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At midday prayers in St Peter's Square the Pope called on Europe to show "concrete solidarity" towards the migrants, whose fate has caused a row between Italy and Malta and opened cracks in the populist Italian government. They've been on the boat since December 22nd when they were picked up off the coast of Libya.

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