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Danish Maersk Line ship carrying hundred migrants stranded off Sicily


Stockholm (AFP)

The world's leading container shipping company Danish Maersk Line on Monday said one of its vessels carrying 108 rescued migrants in international waters is stuck near the Sicilian coast and waiting for instructions from Italian authorities.

Maersk Line spokesman Mikkel Elbek Linnet told AFP the container ship named Alexander Maersk was not moored at any port, with the closest one being in the southern Sicilian town of Pozzallo.

He said the ship "is receiving timely support" from the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, which late Saturday helped five people -- including children and one pregnant woman -- disembark and delivered supplies such as blankets and food.

The crew is now "awaiting further instructions from (Italian) authorities," Linnet added.

While on route from Libya to Malta, the ship changed its course after picking up a distress signal early Friday and rescued 113 migrants and arrived off Pozzallo's coast later the same day.

"I'm expecting the Italian government to find a solution so the migrants won't stay on the ship," Danish immigration and integration minister Inger Stojberg told Ritzau news agency.

Italy, a country on the frontline of mass drownings in the Mediterranean in recent years, has started to turn away rescue vessels, with its new populist government demanding greater solidarity from reluctant fellow EU states.

After rescue ship the Aquarius, chartered by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the humanitarian organisation SOS Mediterranee, brought migrants who were turned away in Malta and Italy to Spain, another vessel named Lifeline is waiting to find a solution in Maltese waters while carrying more than 200 migrants on board.

Italy accused the German NGO Mission Lifeline carrying more than 230 migrants onboard of being "an illegal ship".

Since 2015, Alexander Maersk has participated in seven rescue operations and has welcomed people on board three times.

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