Sea-Watch 3: Deal allows 'hostage' migrant boat to dock

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Media captionThe crew of Sea-Watch 3 said they were being 'held hostage'

A rescue boat, which includes four British crew, could be allowed to dock in Italy following a stand-off.

Italy's anti-immigrant government had held the Sea-Watch 3 off the coast of Sicily after it picked up 47 people in the Mediterranean on 19 January.

The crew claimed they were "hostages", while aid group Sea Watch took the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The vessel now has permission to dock after Italy and six other countries struck a deal to take the migrants in.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The crew aid ship rescued the men and boys from a sinking dinghy in stormy waters

After France, Germany, Malta, Portugal, Romania and Luxembourg agreed to join Italy in taking the migrants, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said: "Disembarking will begin in the coming hours."

During the stand-off, Brendan Woodhouse, from Matlock in Derbyshire, said they were being held "hostage" as they were prevented from leaving the boat, or local waters.

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 Doug Kuntz/Sea-Watch
Image caption (Left to right): Kim Heaton-Heather, Brendan Woodhouse, Dan Bebawi and Jon Stone, had appealed for help

On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) urged the Italian government to "take all necessary measures, as quickly as possible", to provide migrants on board the Sea-Watch 3 with medical care, water and food.

The Italian government had warned it was considering legal action against Sea-Watch's crew for aiding illegal immigration.

Some 113,482 migrants crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe last year, according to the UN refugee agency, and another 2,262 people lost their lives or went missing.

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