MILAN (AP) — A Spanish humanitarian ship has been stuck in the Mediterranean Sea for more than a week because no European government will offer safe harbor to the 121 migrants on board, and the vessel faces a fine of up to 1 million euros if it enters Italian waters.
The Open Arms was idle for an eighth day Friday in waters off Italy's southernmost island. The ship's dilemma is becoming increasingly common as European governments shut their doors to migrants, led by Italy's interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who is popular for his hardline stance against migrant arrivals.
Open Arms founder Oscar Camps indicated that the vessel would avoid entering Italian waters without permission unless there is a humanitarian crisis on board, as allowed by international maritime law.
Malta also refused to let the ship in, while Spain demurred, saying it is not the closest safe port, the humanitarian group said.
The EU Commission said Friday that it has not received any requests from a national government to intervene, as it typically requires. But spokeswoman Annika Breidhardt said the commission was reaching out to member states "to show solidarity."
In a bid to draw attention to the standoff, actor Richard Gere boarded the ship Friday some 27 nautical miles off Lampedusa. Gere helped bring food and supplies to the boat and asked for support for the passengers, who include 9-monthold Ethiopian twins.
"The most important thing for these people here is to be able to get to a free port, to get off the boat, to get on land and start a new life," Gere said. "Please support us here on Open Arms and help these people, our brothers and sisters."
Such standoffs have persisted over the last 14 months since Italy's populist government took office and Salvini became interior minister. He blames the EU and other member states for leaving Italy alone to manage migrant arrivals.