Italy or Malta must let stranded migrants land 'immediately'

Italy or Malta must let stranded migrants land 'immediately'

Malta has accused Italy of violating global norms by instructing a migrant rescue ship with 629 people aboard to stay at sea while a diplomatic standoff plays out over where it can dock.

Malta's ports will not take in the Acquarius vessel with hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers on board, which has been stranded in the Mediterranean after the Italian authorities had refused to accept it.

In another Facebook post on Monday, Salvini assailed the Sea-Watch 3, another rescue ship operating in Mediterranean waters that had to wait hours to be assigned a disembarkation port over the weekend.

"Victory!" tweeted Matteo Salvini, deputy prime minister and leader of the far-right League, after the offer from Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to admit the ship carrying 629 migrants to the port of Valencia.

"As such Malta will not take the said vessel in its ports".

"From today, Italy will also start to say no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration". Malta has refused the ship entry, insisting it was abiding by global law. "The island can not continue looking the other way when it comes to respecting worldwide conventions", read the Italian government's statement signed by Salvini and Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli.

The spokesman said it took place in the Libyan search-and-rescue area and was headed up by the rescue coordination centre in Rome, meaning Malta has no legal obligation to take in the migrants.

Speaking to news channel Sky TG24, Aquarius crew member Alessandro Porro said that they were north of Malta and had "received no communications from the Maltese authorities".

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez gave instructions on Monday for Spain to offer a "safe port" to the vessel Aquarius, which is now at sea with more than 600 migrants and refugees on board. "We need to know who is arriving", a local man, Salvo Cavallaro said, "these 600 people, we don't know who they are".

"If anyone thinks I won't move a muscle while we have another summer of landings, landings and more landings, well that's not what I'm going to do", Salvini told reporters.

Right-wing politicians have accused charity boats operating off the coast of Libya of operating as "taxis" for migrants.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said that Italy would not open its ports to the NGO's vessel, according to the Reuters news agency.

He said: "We have doctors on board who are taking care of them but it's not definitive care so they do need to be disembarked as soon as possible so they can get the best treatment that they can".

"Malta is respecting global rules and, therefore, can't let Aquarius dock at its port".

"It is our obligation to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and to offer a safe harbour to these people, in accordance to our obligations of worldwide law", Spain's new president Pedro Sanches said.

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