Monday, 16 July, 2018

Spain accepts rescue boat with stranded migrants in the Mediterranean

Migrants on a rubber boat are rescued by the SOS Mediterranee organisation during a search and rescue operation with the MV Aquarius rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea Italy shuts ports to rescue ship carrying 629 migrants
Leonard Rios | 15 June, 2018, 15:15

Spain offered on Monday to take in a rescue ship that is holding position in the Mediterranean sea with 629 migrants on board after Italy and Malta refused to let it dock.

Spain's prime minister, Socialist party leader Pedro Sanchez, offered to resolve the impasse by allowing the Aquarius access to the port of Valencia on Monday.

"Plan from MRCC (the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) Rome is that rescued people will later be transferred on Italian ships before heading together to" the eastern Spanish port of Valencia, rescue charity SOS Mediterranee said on Twitter.

The 629 migrants, including 11 children and seven pregnant women, have been drifting in the central Mediterranean aboard the Aquarius since Sunday, when both Italy and Malta shut their ports to it.

A bitter row broke out between Italy and Malta at the weekend over which country should take in the Aquarius rescue boat, which picked up the migrants on Saturday and Sunday.

Many speculated that he had withdrawn it under pressure from his party and its allies, who have pledged to take a stand against European Union migration policies that they say leave Italy and its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.

The move was widely condemned by humanitarian groups, with reports that mayors across southern Italy, including in Palermo and Naples, had pledged to defy Salvini's move and open up their city's ports to the ship.

Beau told AFP a "one-off solution" had been found for the Aquarius after Spain offered to take in its passengers following refusals from the nearest countries, Italy and Malta.

At a rally on June 3rd, Italy's new interior minister Matteo Salvini listed the reasons people elected him.

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It will take the Aquarius about 10 days to make the trip to Spain and back, leaving the Dutch-flagged Sea Watch 3 alone off the coast of Libya - a staging ground for people smugglers - looking out for migrant boats in distress.

Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in a tweet that "Malta is going to send fresh supplies to the ship". Valencia is 700 nautical miles from point between Malta and Italy where humanitarian boat is now.

The operation, they said, will unload the Aquarius, which has been carried for three days more than 100 people over its capacity.

"Following the election of the new Italian Government, the crisis now seems to be taking an ever more political direction", ICS said in a statement.

Italy has taken in more than 600,000 migrants from the sea since 2014, according to Reuters, with about 13,706 sea arrivals so far this year - a significant decrease from recent years.

The U.N. refugee agency said Monday that there was "an urgent humanitarian imperative" to act, calling on governments to accept the distressed migrants now and resolve "broader issues" later.

However, charities questioned why the coast guard boat was being allowed to dock in Italy, while migrants on the Aquarius, who had been at sea for longer, were not.

Salvini was elected on an anti-immigration platform and serves as the head of the far-right Lega in Italy.

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