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Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Why Italy has closed its ports to a migrant rescue ship

Why Italy has closed its ports to a migrant rescue ship

That had immediate effect Sunday and Monday as the country closed its ports to a vessel, the Aquarius, carrying 629 migrants, including about 100 children, arguing that Malta should take the people instead.

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.

The row has triggered global concern about the migrants' plight. Numbers have dropped dramatically in recent months, but rescues have increased in recent days, presenting Salvini with his first test as minister.

"If we can't rely on getting relief in any of those ports, I personally say we can't go back out" for additional missions, said Klaus Stadler, the captain of a rescue boat operated by the German NGO Sea-Eye.

But on Sunday, Italy's coast guard ordered the ship to remain 35 miles off Italy and 27 miles from Malta.

Will Malta accept the ship?

Why has Spain stepped in?

"Salvini is violating the worldwide law".

He added: "It will be necessary to sit down and discuss how to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future".

Malta's government replied saying Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had spoken to Italian premier Giuseppe Conte and underlined "that Malta is acting in full conformity with its global obligations".

The Aquarius on Monday was more than 750 nautical miles from Valencia and said it had received no instructions yet to head to Spain. The Maltese government has said that the mission was coordinated by the rescue coordination centre in Rome and that Malta was neither the coordinating authority nor the country with competence on the case.

Spain has now announced it will allow the boat to dock in the eastern port of Valenica.

Echoing similar calls by the United Nations and the bloc's biggest member state Germany, Schinas added: "For the commission there is first and foremost a humanitarian imperative, we are talking about people".

A little more than a week ago, Italy's new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, told a crowd that "Italy and Sicily can not be Europe's refugee camp" and "the good times for illegals are over", Deutsche Welle reports. "Italy has stopped bowing down, it's now time to say no". By Monday, the ship still did not know where to disembark the 629 people they had rescued. Although there were no immediate emergencies on board, the spokesman said, there were many who needed medical care for chemical burns, hypothermia and dehydration. 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.

The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, and the mayor of Valencia, Joan Ribó, had previously offered to take in the 629 migrants who are now on the Aquarius, after having been rescued from the Mediterranean by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Sos Mediterranée.

The dispute was among the first consequences of political upheaval in Italy, where anti-migrant leaders recently rose to power with a pledge to crack down on new arrivals from the Middle East and Africa.

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". "Encouraging change in humanitarian policy from (Sanchez's) government", Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau wrote on Twitter after the government's offer.

The summer of 2016 saw a surge in mass drownings in the Mediterranean as Europe's worst migration crisis since World War II peaked with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere.

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