Over 2,000 migrant deaths in Mediterranean in 2018

A boat load of migrants crossing the sea

A boat load of migrants crossing the sea

The vessel, operated by the German NGO Sea-Watch, rescued the migrants following a distress call on 22 December, and has been stranded at sea ever since.

A one-year-old baby and two children, aged six and seven, "are vomiting continuously and are at risk of hypothermia and dehydration", said Alessandro Metz of rights group Mediterranea, on Twitter Friday.

The Sea-Watch 3 was on Wednesday given permission to move closer to Malta so that the vessel could take shelter from bad weather that is closing in on the islands.

It means Spain is the new gateway into Europe for migrants, overtaking Greece and Italy, with arrivals more than doubling from the 2017 total of 22,414.

This was mainly due to a "dramatic fall" in the number of migrants making their way via the central Mediterranean route from Libya and Algeria, falling to roughly 23,000 or 20 percent of the level in 2017.

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Several German and Italian cities have since offered to host them, with the mayor of Naples defying Italy's hardline interior minister by saying he would lead the operation to disembark them himself if they approached the coast. The German aid boat's crew quickly rescued him.

Migrants rescued by ships have frequently been left in limbo since Italy's populist anti-immigration government began turning them away last summer.

Meanwhile, arrivals in Spain doubled to 57,000 migrants past year, making the route from Morocco to the Iberian Peninsula the most active in Europe.

The European Union's border agency says the number of unauthorized border crossings into Europe has hit a five-year low, but that migrant entries into Spain via the Mediterranean continue to climb.

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