Malta refuses to accept vessel carrying 629 migrants after Italy’s rejection

11 June, 2018, 16:40 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Spain accepts 629 stranded migrants after Italy and Malta refused them

Italy's new interior minister Matteo Salvini had threatened to close access to Italian ports for migrant rescue ships if Malta refused to take the migrants on board.

Given that Italy's decision to close their ports was the first strong-man move from anti-immigration Home Affairs Minister and Leader of the League (LEGA), one of the two parties of the ruling coalition, and the murky waters surrounding worldwide obligations, it would appear that the stalemate may continue. The rescue ship's crew itself pulled 229 migrants from the water or from traffickers' unseaworthy boats Saturday night, including 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women. The Maltese government refused the request, stating worldwide law required the passengers be unloaded in Italy.

The Commission says the legal circumstances dictating who should accept the migrants is "anything but clear", however Brussels says both parties are obliged to cooperate to resolve the matter.

But Muscat, "while comprehending the situation", rebuffed him, Conte said in a Facebook post late Sunday. "Malta takes in nobody", he said.

Like Malta, Italy didn't appear to be budging.

The decision ultimately rests with Salvini's government because a ship typically can not dock without the presence of the Italian coastguard, which is controlled by Rome.

"From now also Italy begins to say NO to the traffic of human beings, NO to the business of illegal immigration".

"Malta is respecting worldwide rules and, therefore, can't let Aquarius dock at its port".

The European Union and the United Nations refugee agency called for a swift end to a political standoff that has left 629 migrants on a rescue ship drifting at sea on Monday after Italy and Malta refused to let it dock.

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"The island can't continue to turn the other way", the ministers said.

Spain has stepped in and said it would be welcoming the Aquarius, with 629 migrants on board, and allow it to dock in Valencia.

"Malta is neither the competent nor the coordinating authority in this case".

SOS Mediterranean spokeswoman Mathilde Auvillain told The Associated Press the ship was "heading north following instructions received after the rescues and transfers" Saturday night. The Rome-based rescue coordination centre gave the instructions.

Salvini, leader of the far-right League, said Malta should let the Aquarius dock but he was rejected. As such Malta will not take the said vessel in its ports.

They explained that Valletta had no responsibility over the people aboard of Aquarius as they had been saved by Italian Navy in Libyan waters.

European charity, SOS Méditerranée, said the group of sub-Saharan Africans were picked up in six different rescue operations off the coast of Libya.

The Sea Watch still did not have any migrants on board, spokesman Ruben Neugebauer said.

More than 600,000 people have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years.

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