Migrants rescue-ship adrift as Italy-Malta standoff continues

Migrants rescue-ship adrift as Italy-Malta standoff continues

Migrants rescue-ship adrift as Italy-Malta standoff continues

Spain has offered to take in a rescue ship carrying more than 600 migrants after Italy and Malta refused.

Malta's Prime Minsiter Joseph Muscat continued to insist his country is acting according to global law and that it is Italy's duty to take in the migrants, as Italy's coast guard coordinated the rescues off the coast of Libya.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who had been criticized for not offering to take in the boat at a French port, broke his silence on the topic during a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, denouncing the "cynicism and irresponsibility of the Italian government", government spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux said at a press conference.

Right-wing politicians have accused charity boats operating off the coast of Libya of operating as "taxis" for migrants.

Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Sunday evening told his Italian counterpart, Giuseppe Conte, Malta will not allow the ship to disembark.

He said Malta would be sending fresh supplies to the vessel, adding: "We will have to sit down and discuss how to prevent this from happening again. This is a European issue".

Matteo Salvini, the country's new interior minister and the head of League, blocked the Aquarius' access to Italian ports.

The ship, which was located in global waters between Malta and Italy, is carrying 629 people on board, with reports of the vessel only having enough food to last one day.

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"Clearly, politely raising our voice - something that the Italian government had not done for a long time, for years - pays", Salvini said from the headquarters of his far-right League party.

French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the decision to block the Aquarius, operated by the Franco-German charity SOS Mediterranne, saying worldwide law obligated Italy to take in the migrants. The group includes seven pregnant women, 123 unaccompanied minors and people suffering from burns caused from a mixture of seawater and fuel.

According to SOS Mediterranee, the journey from Maltese waters to Valencia would take at least three days.

The regional leader of Spain's Basque Country, Inigo Urkullu, said the region was prepared to take care of 10 percent of the passengers.

The Aquarius is looking for a safe harbor for se refugees and immigrants since Sunday Italy announced closure of ir ports to boats of NGOs that save lives in Mediterranean.

In a move reminiscent of Australia's contentious asylum seeker policy, Italy's newly sworn-in, popularist government on Monday refused to allow the refugee-laden ship to dock at its ports.

European Union law requires asylum seekers register in the first safe country they reach.

Since 2015, thousands of people have fled war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia with Italy and Greece being the main entry points to Europe. "Let them open their ports and if they want we can send them a few people", Italy's deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio told reporters yesterday.

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