Spain offers to accept migrant ship after Italy, Malta refuse

12 June, 2018, 01:32 | Author: Essie Rivera
  • Humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee said there were 123 minors on board the Aquarius ship

A rescue ship run by a European charity is headed to Spain with more than 600 migrants on board after Italy and Malta refused to accept the vessel.

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.

"From today, Italy will also start to say no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration".

"People are in distress, are running out of provisions and need help quickly".

The vessel, now carrying 629 people, has been ordered by the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre late on Sunday to stand put 35 nautical miles from Italy and 27 nautical miles from Malta.

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

"We will not turn Italy into a huge refugee camp", he wrote.

"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.

"The boat is now heading north towards a secure port", SOS Mediterranee tweeted without specifying its destination, though virtually every such migrant boat over the past five years ended up in Italy.

Migrants are rescued in the Mediterranean sea on June 9, 2018 in a picture released on June 11, 2018 by SOS Mediterranee, before boarding the French NGO's ship Aquarius.

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In another Facebook post on Monday, Salvini assailed the Sea-Watch 3, another rescue ship operating in Mediterranean waters that had to wait hours to be assigned a disembarkation port over the weekend.

Mr Salvini also took aim at other European countries that were involved in rescue operations in the Mediterranean but did not actually take in any migrants.

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". It added that the Aquarius "is still waiting for definitive instructions regarding the port of safety".

Mr Salvini says he wants to "stop the death boats".

Meanwhile a spokesman for the Maltese government said that "Malta was neither the coordinating nor the competent authority" in the rescue.

"If anyone thinks I won't move a muscle while we have another summer of landings, landings and more landings, well that's not what I'm going to do", Salvini told reporters.

"The duty of a democratic government is not to look away" in a humanitarian crisis, said Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, who also offered her port as a potential solution to the standoff.

Last week, Salvini said Rome should increase its deportations of migrants.

Italy's new government assumes power at a time when nativist populist parties have growing clout in Europe and its anti-immigrant stance will no doubt be welcomed by Hungary's Viktor Orban, whose government is now trying to criminalize people working for groups that assist asylum seekers. It ends what was becoming an increasingly hard and untenable situation for the crew of the Aquarius and the more than 600 rescued people who were aboard.

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