Friday, 22 June, 2018

US Navy rescues migrants at sea off the coast of Libya

Stefano Montesi- Corbis via Getty Images Stefano Montesi- Corbis via Getty Images
Patty Aguilar | 13 June, 2018, 21:02

Even as Italy dispatched the charity ship, an Italian coast guard vessel with 937 migrants aboard was heading north from the Libyan coast and was expected to dock in Sicily on Wednesday.

The move is reportedly part of new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's mission to halt the flow of incoming migrants, following up on his previous electoral promises.

Valencia, however, is 800 nautical miles away from the point between Italy and Malta, where the ship has been stranded, and took on emergency rations of food on Monday.

On June 3, Salvini went to Pozzallo, a Sicilian port where many rescued migrants and refugees disembark, to thunder that the "good times are over" for undocumented migrants and to insinuate that nongovernmental organizations saving lives in the central Mediterranean are complicit with smugglers.

Since Friday, the German branch of the SOS Mediterranean NGO has been rescuing migrants and asylum seekers in the Mediterranean and taking them on board the Acquarius.

While Spain's foreign minister said he hoped its gesture of solidarity would help push other European Union members to re-examine migrant policy at a summit later this month, French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Italy's cynicism and irresponsibility for leaving the migrants at sea, while also deflecting criticism for not allowing the ship to dock in France.

"There is a degree of cynicism and irresponsibility in the Italian government's behaviour", said French President Emmanuel Macron through a spokesman.

Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted his thanks to Sanchez "for agreeing to accept the Aquarius after Italy violated worldwide law and caused an impasse".

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Around 600,000 people are believed to have reached Italy by boat from Africa since the start of the migrant crisis five years ago, with as many as half a million estimated to still be in the country.

The passengers, with many migrants from Sudan among them, were apparently unaware of they had become pawns of sorts in Europe's new political equilibrium.

Under global law, people rescued at sea should be brought to the nearest and safest port for assistance. This warning comes after Italy and Malta refused permission for the boat Aquarius to dock after it had rescued 629 migrants Sunday off the coast of Libya.

The far-right League scored its best-ever result in March national elections and has formed a coalition government with the anti-system 5-Star Movement.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said his country had "asked for a gesture of solidarity from Europe and this gesture has been made".

Their safety was at risk for the longer voyage given the forecast of bad weather, said Mathilde Auvillain, a spokeswoman for the charity SOS Mediterranee that operates the ship with Doctors Without Borders.

The U.N. says at least 785 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean so far this year. The group includes seven pregnant women, 123 unaccompanied minors and people suffering from burns caused from a mixture of seawater and fuel.

"We call on all involved to contribute to a swift resolution so that the people on board the Aquarius vessel may be safely disembarked as soon as possible".

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