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Italy, Malta must allow disembarkation of stranded migrants

Italy, Malta must allow disembarkation of stranded migrants

He tells VOA there is no merit to the suggestion that people in distress will be dissuaded from crossing the sea in flimsy boats if they know rescue is not a possibility.

While Spain's willingness to take in the Aquarius has surprised many observers, for the new Spanish government "it does make political sense for several reasons" says the BBC's Guy Hedgecoe.

A child looks on as Nigerian Christians pray aboard rescue ship MV Aquarius, off the coast of Sicily on May 14, 2018.

It singled out France, whose leader earlier was quoted as calling Italy's response "cynical", as having adopted migrant arrivals policies "much more rigid and cynical".

Many Spanish regions and cities have offered long-term support to the migrants, said Valencia's regional vice president, Monica Oltra.

The aid group Doctors Without Borders, which operates the Aquarius with SOS Mediterranee, urged both Italy and Malta to reconsider their refusal to allow the stranded migrants landfall and then safe passage by other means to Spain, which has responded to the plight with an offer of safe harbor.

It's not yet clear what Salvini and the new government have in mind, but it's worth remembering that the League's Roberto Maroni was interior minister in 2009 when Italy implemented its nefarious policy of literally pushing boats back to Libya.




The Aquarius and its passengers were caught up in a crackdown swiftly implemented by the right-wing partner in Italy's new populist government, which has vowed to stop the country from becoming the "refugee camp of Europe".

The head of the French charity which charters the Aquarius migrant rescue ship said on Tuesday that it would continue its operations despite the worldwide stand-off over the 629 people now on-board.

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

On Tuesday morning, an Italian vessel delivered fresh supplies to the Aquarius as it awaited departure from Maltese waters. "We have hosted 650,000 migrants in recent years alone, all of whom pass by Malta, an European Union country, and the government says, 'Ciao, Ciao, go to Italy.'".

"This happens, if there are not enough rescue assets in place and a safe passage is absent", the NGO said. "We need to have an idea of what port to go to, something that up to now we haven't had", Aquarius crew member Alessandro Porro told news channel Sky TG24 on Sunday.

SOS Mediterranee spokeswoman Mathilde Auvillain said the ship was "heading north following instructions received after the rescues and transfers" on Saturday night. After rescuing 229 people from these boats, the Aquarius was requested by the IMRCC to accept a transfer of people who had been rescued by Italian navy and coastguard ships on 9 June. "The priority must be to immediately disembark all 629 people - including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and 6 pregnant women - at the nearest port of safety".

"There are more than 600 people onboard, they are exhausted, they want to get to safety, there is, of course, a lot of tension among them because they are not sure what is going to happen", she added.


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