efforts are under way to resolve a stand-off between Spain and Malta
which has left 51 African migrants stranded at sea since Friday.
The 51 migrants are reported to be from
Malta is refusing to allow a Spanish trawler which picked up the
migrants to dock, drawing criticism from the UN.
European Union Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said he had
spoken with Spanish, Italian and Maltese ministers.
He said the trawler had done a "fantastic" job but that Malta
needed help to deal with migration pressures.
The Maltese government is insisting the Eritrean men, women and
children on board are Spain's or Libya's concern, since the boat is
Spanish and the rescue was made in Libya's search-and-rescue zone.
Spanish junior foreign minister, Bernardino Leon, said that two
Spanish inspectors who boarded the vessel on Tuesday had reported
that conditions for the immigrants were beginning to get worrying.
The AFP news agency says a pregnant woman and mother and child
were temporarily taken off the trawler to receive medical treatment,
but were taken back later.
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, has told the Maltese
authorities to let the migrants disembark urgently.
But the government of Malta says it has no more capacity to deal
with illegal immigrants and has been pressing the EU to help.
Mr Frattini said the
European Union was about to launch a mission to patrol the
Mediterranean near Malta, as he announced plans to set up a system
for sending rapid reaction border guard teams to countries facing a
He added that the Spanish minister of foreign affairs had
proposed a solution to the current standoff, but he said he did not
want to predict what the final outcome would be.
Almost 1,000 immigrants have landed on Malta, which has a total
population of 400,000, since January.
Spain, meanwhile, is dealing with its own immigration crisis in
the Canary Islands, with some 11,000 African migrants arriving on
the island chain so far this year.