Italy Denies Entry to Another Migrant Rescue Ship - Interior Minister
Italy Denies Entry to Another Migrant Rescue Ship - Interior Minister
Italy turns away a rescue boat carrying 600 migrants including 123 children and seven pregnant women
11 June, 2018, 15:24
The move by Italy's new interior minister and leader of the far-right League, Matteo Salvini, is an "opening gambit to make good on his electoral promises to halt the flow of migrants into the country", Reuters says.
Italy's position, Muscat said, risks "creating a unsafe situation for all those involved".
Doctors Without Borders operates the Aquarius ship, together with the SOS Mediterranean Organisations.
The government of Malta expressed concern that Italy is going against global rules in the way it is tackling the issue regarding stranded migrants.
The Aquarius and its passengers were caught up in a crackdown promoted by the right-wing partner in Italy's new populist government, which has vowed to stop the country from becoming the "refugee camp of Europe".
On Sunday, Italy had refused to allow the vessel to dock in its ports, demanding that Malta should take it in.
And the crisis between the Mediterranean countries may be far from being over, as Italian newspaper Repubblica reported that 800 more people have been saved by both Italian and global boats in Libyan waters overnight.
The Maltese Rescue Coordination Center "is neither the competent nor the coordinating authority", the statement said.
The migrants onboard the ship were picked up in six rescue operations that also involved Italian naval units, according to SOS Mediterranée. The rescued people include 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and seven pregnant women.
Muscat said Malta will offer to evacuate people who require urgent medical help, without prejudice to its stand in refusing entry to the ship.
"Starting today, Italy, too, begins to say NO to the trafficking of human beings, NO to the business of clandestine immigration", Salvini tweeted Sunday.
As of Monday morning, the Aquarius was circling in worldwide waters off Malta after the Italian maritime coordination centre in Rome ordered the vessel to stay put (see map).
"The Mediterranean is the sea of all the countries that face it, and it (Malta) can't imagine that Italy will continue to face this giant phenomenon (of migration) in solitude", the ministers said.
The charity's spokesperson, Mathilde Auvillain, said the ship had received orders to head north and was now awaiting "definitive instructions".
The group said it "urgently requests a swift resolution and a designated port of safety".
The United Nations estimates that at least 500 people have died in 2018 trying to cross the central Mediterranean, following some 2853 fatalities past year.
For years the European Union has largely ignored Italy's rising fury at being left to deal with the migration crisis (even when it came from more politically acceptable figures like Matteo Renzi) but with Mr Salvini in charge, that may no longer be possible.
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