Norwegian charity ship Ocean Viking had been waiting to dock since September 19. The boat picked up 217 Libyan migrants from other boats in the Mediterranean Sea. 35 migrants were allowed to leave for Malta on September 20, leaving 182 other passengers at sea. Italy has finally permitted the Ocean Viking to dock at Sicily.

SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders operate the Ocean Viking, which had picked up 217 migrants from four boats in the Mediterranean. Non-Government Organisations aiding the migrants have had ships stranded in the sea for days and weeks before any country agreed to allow them to dock. Malta agreed to take only 35 passengers from the Ocean Viking on Friday. The rest of the migrants had to wait until September 22, Sunday when Italy finally permitted the ship to dock at the Sicilian port of Messina.

Most of the 182 passengers are from sub-Saharan Africa. Among the stranded passengers, it is reported that there is a newborn baby as well as 13 children under the age of 15. The children and their families will be docking on the Italian coast on Tuesday.

migrants trying to reach europe
Italy's new government is seeking support to implement a pan-European migrant policy AFP / Anne CHAON

September 23 is the day when a meeting in Malta is to be attended by German, French, and Italian representatives. The meeting will be to discuss the inflow of migrants into the European Union. A temporary deal by the EU nations will prevent standoffs which lead to NGO ships remaining at sea for weeks.

The International Organisation for Migration recorded that more than 6,500 and 6,200 migrants have entered Italy and Malta respectively by sea this year. Last week, Italy allowed the Ocean Viking to dock with 82 migrants.

ABC News points out that Malta and Italy are the nearest arrival point for migrants trying to reach Europe by sea. Malta and Italy both want the rest of the 28-nation bloc to open their gates to migrants. With the other nations not sharing the load, Italy and Malta might be forced to refuse NGO ships.