EU, UN urge Italy, Malta to let in drifting migrant ship

15 June, 2018, 12:40 | Author: Clarence Schmidt
  • Migrants are rescued by staff members of the MV Aquarius in the central Mediterranean Sea

The Aquarius rescue vessel was however caught in a dramatic standoff over the weekend that saw Italy and Malta refuse to allow it to dock.

Numbers have dropped dramatically in recent months, but there has been a rise in rescues in recent days, presenting Salvini with his first test as minister.

Fresh provisions - including 950 bottles of water, 800 boxes of noodles and snacks, blankets, hats and socks - were delivered to the Aquarius on Tuesday, the charity said.

And two Italian vessels are helping with the trip to Valencia - taking hundreds of the rescued migrants aboard to relieve overcrowding on the Aquarius.

As the rhetoric intensified, the Aquarius remained on stand-by in the Mediterranean Sea with its 629 passengers, including 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women. The migrants, who were picked up from different boats in Libyan waters, hail from several African countries - including Nigeria, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Algeria and Sudan.

"We will not change (our position) on ships belonging to non-governmental organisations", Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said in an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Sanchez went on say that "It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe harbour to these people in accordance with worldwide law". All three ships would then sail to the Spanish port of Valencia on a voyage expected to take four days.

Given that the aid ship had no emergency, Italy made a decision to appeal to other European countries "so they don't leave Italy alone yet again in managing the migratory flows, which is a phenomenon that is all of Europe's business", Di Maio said in a Facebook post.

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.


Late Monday afternoon, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called a cabinet meeting this evening to discuss the issue.

He noted that other European countries are very much involved in current rescue operations in the Mediterranean - including a German aid group now off Libya - but no country is stepping up to actually take in the migrants.

Many speculated that he had withdrawn it under pressure from his party and its allies, who have pledged to take a stand against European Union migration policies that they say leave Italy and its Mediterranean neighbours bearing the brunt of one of the biggest migration crises in a century.

Italy says Malta should accept the Aquarius because Malta is the safest, closest port.

"Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat thanked Sanchez and said Italy had "(broken) global rules and caused a standoff".

Italy's coast guard said in a statement that two Italian ships would take on board some of the migrants, easing conditions on the overcrowded Aquarius.

After Spain's new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez allowed the ship to dock in Valencia, Salvini celebrated the decision.

"All EU governments and institutions must step up and support countries on the frontline dealing with sea arrivals such as Italy, to guarantee shared solutions and stop unacceptable silence and inaction from EU states".

"Italy has stopped bowing our heads and obeying", Mr Salvini said in a Facebook post.

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