Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Spain offers to take migrant ship amid Italy-Malta standoff

Spain offers to take migrant ship amid Italy-Malta standoff

Numerous migrants were rescued in waters controlled by Libya, a common route for undocumented migrants attempting to enter Europe from sub-Saharan Africa, the BBC reported. "We need to know who is arriving", a local man, Salvo Cavallaro said, "these 600 people, we don't know who they are. My goal is to guarantee a peaceful life for these children in Africa and for our children in Italy", Salvini tweeted Sunday using the hashtag "We are shutting the ports".

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.

The previous Italian government also threatened to close the country's ports last July during last summer's spate of migrant movements across the Mediterranean.

After Sanchez's move, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte thanked Spain - as did Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat while also blaming Italy for the ship's prolonged journey.

The League promisied voters during the Italian general election that it would take a tough stance on immigration.

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Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris said on Twitter that "if a minister without a heart leaves pregnant women, children, old people, human beings to die, the port of Naples is ready to welcome them".

Malta has been asked to take them and they refused.

But Mr Salvini's decision has incensed Maltese politicians who have also refused to take in the migrants.

The new cabinet has pledged to take a stand against European Union migration policies that they say leave Italy and its Mediterranean neighbours bearing the brunt of one of the biggest migration crises in a century.

The Italian government has urged Malta to take the 629 migrants, rescued this weekend and now aboard a boat managed by the SOS Mediterranee aid group.

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Italy and Malta had both refused to let the Gibraltar-flagged Aquarius ship, whose passengers include 11 children and seven pregnant women rescued off the coast of Libya at the weekend, to dock, prompting the European Union and the United Nations refugee agency to call for a swift end to the standoff.

SOS Mediterranee spokesperson Mathilde Auvillain said the Aquarius had received orders to head north after a series of sea rescues and was now awaiting "definitive instructions".

"Our only objective is the disembarkation in a port of safety of the people that we rescued yesterday in hard conditions", it said, adding that it "took good note" of the Italian Interior Ministry's statements. "We have never been a situation before where we have been denied a right to a port of safety", he said Monday via a WhatsApp message.

Sea-Watch said it requested help from the coastguard in Malta to send boats to aid the rescue mission but Malta refused.

"States and actors involved should rapidly find solutions to allow migrants and refugees on board to disembark safely and quickly", it said in a tweet.

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Driven by violent conflicts and extreme poverty, hundreds of thousands of migrants have reached southern Europe in recent years by crossing the Mediterranean in smugglers' boats that often are unseaworthy. If they're going to refuse to accept refugees picked up at sea, what basis do they have to criticize Italy for balking at taking in hundreds more of them every day?

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