Why Italy has closed its ports to a migrant rescue ship

11 June, 2018, 15:24 | Author: Wade Massey
  • A body bag is removed from the Italian Coast Guard vessel 'Diciotti' following a rescue operation of migrants and refugees

The migrants were saved by SOS Mediterranee on Saturday and are stuck aboard the French NGO's ship Aquarius, which is now between Malta and Sicily waiting for a secure port for her to dock.

Prime Minister Muscat reiterated that Malta is acting in full conformity with its worldwide obligations.

His second says, "Malta is in full conformity with worldwide obligations and will not take the vessel in its ports".

Italy's position, Muscat said, risks "creating a unsafe situation for all those involved".

Salvini said he is considering action against organisations rescuing migrants at sea.

A spokesman for the Maltese government told AFP that "the rescue of the migrants took place in the Libyan search and rescue area and was headed up by the rescue coordination centre in Rome, meaning Malta has no legal obligation to take in the migrants".

"Malta is neither the competent nor the coordinating authority in this case".

Italy's new interior minister Matteo Salvini had threatened to close access to Italian ports for migrant rescue ships if Malta refused to take the migrants on board.

Doctors Without Borders operates the Aquarius ship, together with the SOS Mediterranean Organisations.

The BBC reports that among those on board are "123 unaccompanied minors, 11 younger children and seven pregnant women". "Italy has stopped bowing its head and obeying, this time THERE IS SOMEONE WHO SAYS NO. #chiudiamoiporti (#weareclosingtheports)", Salvini wrote on Twitter, as quoted by the Ansa news agency.

I took a call from Italy PM Giuseppe Conte to discuss Acquarius issue.

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But Muscat, "while comprehending the situation", rebuffed him, Conte said in a Facebook post late Sunday.

Muscat said Malta will offer to evacuate people who require urgent medical help, without prejudice to its stand in refusing entry to the ship.

Like Malta, Italy didn't appear to be budging.

"Starting today, Italy, too, begins to say NO to the trafficking of human beings, NO to the business of clandestine immigration", Salvini tweeted Sunday.

The charity said the group of mainly sub-Saharan Africans were picked up in six different rescue operations off the coast of Libya and included hundreds who were plucked from the sea by Italian naval units and then transferred to the Aquarius.

"This is not an inhumane act", said Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, in charge of Italy's ports and coast guard.

"The Mediterranean is the sea of all the countries that face it, and it (Malta) can't imagine that Italy will continue to face this giant phenomenon (of migration) in solitude", the ministers said. All passengers were offloaded to the Aquarius to be taken to land.

The group said it "urgently requests a swift resolution and a designated port of safety".

Dalli accused the Italian government of breaching global maritime laws by refusing to allow the Aquarius to berth in its ports.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Monday that "the priority of both the Italian and Maltese authorities should be ensuring these people receive the care they need".

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