Migrants remain at sea as Italy-Malta standoff intensifies

Migrants remain at sea as Italy-Malta standoff intensifies

Migrants remain at sea as Italy-Malta standoff intensifies

The rescue ship's crew pulled 229 migrants from the water or from traffickers' un-seaworthy boats on Saturday night, including 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women.

Salvini's comments came after another spat with Malta over its reported refusal to come to the aid of the rescue ship Seefuchs, which was stranded with 126 migrants on board in violent seas until it was allowed to dock in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo on Saturday.

A little more than a week ago, Italy's new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, told a crowd that "Italy and Sicily can not be Europe's refugee camp" and "the good times for illegals are over", Deutsche Welle reports.

Malta's Prime Minsiter Joseph Muscat continued to insist his country is acting according to worldwide law and that it is Italy's duty to take in the migrants, as Italy's coast guard coordinated the rescues off the coast of Libya.

Mayors across southern Italy say they're prepared to admit the migrants.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said on Facebook that he had called on his Maltese counterpart, Joseph Muscat, to "explicitly at least take on the human assistance of persons in difficulty aboard the Aquarius".

On Monday afternoon, Spain offered to allow the migrant-rescue ship to dock at the port of Valencia "to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe, " though it remained unclear whether or not the ship was able to make the journey to Valencia.

Salvini, who also serves as Italy's interior minister, has promised to change immigration policies in Italy, saying the new Italian government's efforts will be aimed at guaranteeing peaceful lives for Africans in Africa and for Italians in their own country.

Mr. Salvini and leaders of the previous government complained that the European Union was casting Italy adrift by doing little to ease Italy's migrant burden. "We need to have an idea of what port to go to, something that up to now we haven't had".

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Rescue at sea is regulated by worldwide law, which "is clear on the fact that any shipmaster has the obligation to provide assistance to persons in distress at sea", said Dr. Sarah Wolff, a lecturer in Public Policy at Queen Mary University, London.

The country refuses to take in migrants because of its small size. In a statement it said the Aquarius took on the migrants in global waters off Libya and rescue operations were coordinated by Italy.

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

The charity's spokesperson, Mathilde Auvillain, said the ship had received orders to head north and was now awaiting "definitive instructions".

Both the mayors of Valencia and Barcelona offered to take the boat in at their ports.

The new prime minister said Spain was welcoming the Aquarius out of the "duty to avoid a humanitarian disaster", the AP reports.

Italy, which has a new, anti-immigration government, suggested that Malta take in the migrants.

Mr. Galietti said it is not known whether the agreement struck with Libya by the last Italian government to slow the flow of migrants will automatically transfer to the new Italian government. Those incidents delayed the migrants' arrival, but they ultimately made it to Italy.

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