Migrant rescue ship idling between Italy, Malta as both countries refuse entry

Migrant rescue ship idling between Italy, Malta as both countries refuse entry

Migrant rescue ship idling between Italy, Malta as both countries refuse entry

A rescue ship carrying more than 600 migrants will be allowed to enter the Spanish port of Valencia, after it was turned away from ports in Italy and Malta.

Mr Salvini, who also serves as Italy's Home Secretary, also said his decision to close the country's ports to NGO boats is "the first signal" to other European Union member countries.

Italy's hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini insisted that Malta "cannot continue to look the other way when it comes to respecting precise worldwide conventions on the protection of human life". Their number included 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and seven pregnant women.

On Monday afternoon, Spain offered to allow the migrant-rescue ship to dock at the port of Valencia "to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe, " though it remained unclear whether or not the ship was able to make the journey to Valencia.

The standoff marked the first display of Italy's get-tough immigration policy under the right-wing, xenophobic League.

Italy is the main entry for migrants crossing from North Africa to Europe. "Italy has stopped bowing down, it's now time to say no".

Italy and Malta are the closest ports to Libya.

In defiance of Salvini and the government's anti-immigrant stance, several Italian mayors have suggested they would be prepared to welcome the Aquarius into their port.

Salvini took this a chance to remind that other European countries have been defending their borders without much of a fuss. Malta said Italy co-ordinated the rescues and that the tiny island nation - which in the last few years has only accepted a few hundred migrants - has had nothing to do with it.

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On June 3, Salvini went to Pozzallo, a Sicilian port where many rescued migrants and refugees disembark, to thunder that the "good times are over" for undocumented migrants and to insinuate that nongovernmental organizations saving lives in the central Mediterranean are complicit with smugglers.

Since Friday, the German branch of the SOS Mediterranee NGO has been rescuing migrants and asylum seekers in the Mediterranean and taking them on board Acquarius.

There are no showers or sinks for migrants on the Aquarius and rescue workers use a disinfectant spray on people's hands before they eat. Crisis appeared to have been averted this afternoon after Spain's new president Pedro Sanches offered to take the ship to Valencia, citing his country's humanitarian obligations.

"The people we saved yesterday were in a hard condition, at least 50 were at risk of drowning".

The island nation has reduced the number of migrants it has taken in over the past decade, from a high of 2,775 in 2008 to just 23 a year ago, according to UN statistics.

"Saving lives at sea is a duty, but transforming Italy into an enormous refugee camp is not", Matteo Salvini, the head of the far-right League party, who became interior minister this month, wrote on Facebook on Monday. The island nation has reduced the number of migrants it has taken in over the past decade, from a high of 2,775 in 2008 to just 23 previous year, according to U.N. statistics.

The move also created rifts with Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat who said the he was "worried about the direction taken by the Italian authorities" that according to him went against global law.

Italy has always been a destination for migrants crossing the Mediterranean and has been dealing with a surge in arrivals in recent years. Jeffrey Schaffer in Paris, Stephen Calleja in Valletta, Malta, and Frances D'Emilio in Rome contributed.

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