Officials have denied German-flagged rescue ship Alan Kurdi access to Malta's territorial waters to prevent it from docking at Maltese ports. The ship, operated by the Sea-Eye charity, has 65 migrants on board.
The German-flagged rescue ship Alan Kurdi approached Malta on Sunday, but was denied port, Maltese officials said.
"They have no permit to enter Maltese territorial waters," an army spokesman told Germany's dpa news agency.
The ship, operated by German charity Sea-Eye, has 65 migrants on board. Three of them "collapsed in the heat" and are under "acute medical care," the charity said on Twitter. Two of them are reportedly minors.
"We urgently need medical assistance and a safe port for all rescued on board to prevent worse," they said.
The ship's crew asked for an emergency evacuation of the three passengers, a Maltese official cited by the dpa news agency confirmed. Maltese authorities agreed to it.
The ship had previously waited near the Italian island of Lampedusa. Two migrant rescue ships recently defied Italian authorities to dock without permission in Lampedusa, angering populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
Sea-Eye said Italian police barred their entry, prompting them to set course for Malta.
"The Guardia di Finanza came by in person to deliver Salvini's decree: The port is closed," the NGO said.
"In the evening, the #AlanKurdi changed its course towards Malta," they added on Twitter. "We can not wait until the state of emergency prevails."
Ship named after drowned Syrian refugee
Separately, Sea-Eye spokeswoman Carlotta Weibl told dpa that there were no medical emergencies on board, but its charges were in a weak physical state.
"We are sure that Malta will provide us a safe port once Germany and other EU states offer to receive the people," she said.
"We expect that Malta will not be left alone with this," Weibl added.
The ship Alan Kurdi was named after the 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in 2015. The image of his body, washed up on a beach in Turkey, became a global symbol of refugee deaths.
After Dutch-flagged Sea-Watch 3 rammed a police boat to enter port in Lampedusa just over a week ago, and Italian-flagged Alex docked without permission on Saturday, Italy's Salvini pledged to raise fines for illegal docking from €50,000 ($56,157) to €1 million.
dj/ng (AFP, dpa)