Sunday, 15 July, 2018

Italy's Matteo Salvini shuts port to 629 rescued migrants

Spain accepts 629 stranded migrants after Italy and Malta refused them Italy turns away ship carrying over 600 migrants
Patty Aguilar | 11 June, 2018, 15:25

"Saving lives at sea is a duty, but transforming Italy into an enormous refugee camp is not", Salvini said on Facebook on Monday.

In a statement late on Sunday, the government said Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and the Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, had a telephone conversation on the developing situation of the vessel Acquarius.

In a statement it said the Aquarius took on the migrants in worldwide waters off Libya and rescue operations were coordinated by Italy.

Despite the claim by Mayor Orlando that the government stands in opposition to worldwide law by closing the ports to migrant smuggling operations, a distinguished expert on global maritime law Admiral Paolo Caffio has given his verdict, stating that not only is it legal, but there is also precedent, reports Il Giornale.

As the rhetoric intensified, the Aquarius remained on standby in the Mediterranean Sea with its 629 passengers, including 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women.

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

Salvini pointed to Malta's unwillingness in accusing Europe as a whole of leaving Italy on its own to deal with the refugee crisis.

Salvini and Italian Transportation Minister Danilo Toninelli, who is part of the 5-Star Movement faction in the new government, said in a joint statement Sunday that it was Malta's responsibility to "open its ports for the hundreds of the rescued on the NGO ship Aquarius".

His second says, "Malta is in full conformity with worldwide obligations and will not take the vessel in its ports". In practical terms, no ships of this type will be able to land without cooperation of the Italian coastguard, which is under the direct command of the Italian government.

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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.

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

Malta said the German charity SOS Mediterranee had picked up the migrants in Libyan waters, which meant they fell under Italy's jurisdiction.

One Aquarius crew member, Alessandro Porro, told Italian news channel Sky TG24 that they desperately needed to know which port to go to.

The aid group said in a statement it had taken "good note" of Salvini's stance, as reported earlier by Italian media.

SOS Méditerranée spokesperson Mathilde Auvillain said the boat had received orders to head north after a series of sea rescues and was now was awaiting "definitive instructions".

More than 600,000 people have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years.

The United Nations estimates that at least 500 people have died in 2018 trying to cross the central Mediterranean, following some 2853 fatalities a year ago.

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