Sea-Watch 3: Foreign Office monitoring stranded migrant rescue ship

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Media captionThe crew of Sea-Watch 3 say they are being 'held hostage'

The situation on board a ship containing four British rescuers stranded off the coast of Sicily is being closely monitored, the Foreign Office has said.

The Sea-Watch 3 crew rescued 47 migrants from a sinking boat in storms in the Mediterranean on 19 January.

Everyone on board has been prevented from leaving the boat, or local waters, by Italian minister Matteo Salvini.

The crew is facing investigation for assisting illegal migration.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it was "seeking further information on the British nationals affected".

Image copyright Doug Kuntz/Sea-Watch
Image caption (Left to right): Kim Heaton-Heather, Brendan Woodhouse, Dan Bebawi and Jon Stone, say the situation on board was becoming "dire"

One of the rescuers, Brendan Woodhouse, from Matlock in Derbyshire, said they were being held "hostage" off the coast of Syracuse.

"We're not allowed off the ship and we're not really being given any good reasons why," he said.

The father-of-two, who is a firefighter in Nottinghamshire, said: "I drove a speedboat and found 47 very vulnerable people in a sinking rubber boat.

"I don't see anything wrong with that, certainly there's nothing morally wrong with that and I'll live with whatever the consequences are."

The European Court of Human Rights has told Italy to provide food, water and medical care to those on board the ship.

It also said the 15 unaccompanied minors should be given adequate legal assistance but the interim ruling did not grant the captain's request to let the migrants disembark.

Also on the vessel were head of mission Kim Heaton-Heather, 37, from Brighton, chief engineer Jon Stone, a former Navy serviceman from Lincoln, and bosun Dan Bebawi, 39, from Nottingham.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The crew of the humanitarian aid ship rescued the men and boys on 19 January

Interior minister Mr Salvini has refused to let private rescue boats enter Italian ports, arguing they encourage human traffickers in the Mediterranean.

He has accused the captain and crew of "a crime and a clear desire to use these immigrants in a political battle".

An FCO spokesperson said "rescued migrants should be able to disembark at the nearest safe port".

The ship's crew said they rescued the migrants, including 15 unaccompanied minors, after they were spotted off Libya by a passing plane.

Sicilians have offered their support, and three United Nations agencies have appealed to Italy to allow the migrants off the ship.

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