Italy's Matteo Salvini shuts ports to migrant rescue ship | Daily News

Italy's Matteo Salvini shuts ports to migrant rescue ship

 

A rescue vessel carrying 629 migrants is stranded in the Mediterranean after Italy's new Interior Minister refused permission for it to dock.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing League, said Malta should accept the Aquarius but he was rejected.

Malta says the German charity SOS Méditerranée picked up the migrants in Libyan waters, which means they fall under Italy's jurisdiction.

Italy is the main entry for migrants crossing from North Africa to Europe.

The League promised voters during Italy's recent general election that it would take a tough stance on immigration.

SOS Méditerranée, which runs the Aquarius, said the ship had been instructed by the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre to stand by in its current position, 35 nautical miles from Italy and 27 nautical miles from Malta.

It reports that the migrants were picked up in six different rescue operations off Libya's coast.

The UN refugee agency in Italy has called on "states and actors involved" to "rapidly find solutions to allow migrants and refugees on board the Aquarius to disembark safely and quickly".

Who is on the ship?

Many of the migrants were rescued in waters controlled by Libya, a common route for undocumented migrants attempting to enter Europe from sub-Saharan Africa.

Some 400 were rescued by the Italian Navy, the Italian coastguard and merchant vessels before being transferred to the Aquarius.

Among those saved and brought on board the Aquarius are 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 younger children and seven pregnant women, SOS Méditerranée says.

The minors are aged between 13 and 17 and come from Eritrea, Ghana, Nigeria and Sudan, according to a journalist on the ship, Anelise Borges.

Tweeting during the night, she added that the situation on board was calm and most of the people rescued were asleep.

One Aquarius crew member, Alessandro Porro, told Italian news channel Sky TG24 that they desperately needed to know which port to go to.

"The people we saved yesterday were in a difficult condition, at least 50 were at risk of drowning," he added.

What is Salvini's position?

He said on Sunday that Italy was saying "no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration".

"Malta takes in nobody," he said. "France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons."

"It is not possible for Malta to say 'no' to every request for help. The Good Lord put Malta closer than Sicily to Africa."

Last week, Salvini said Rome should increase its deportations of migrants and the Italian government also wants to relocate asylum seekers EU-wide - a scheme already rejected by some member states.

Salvini says he is considering action against organisations rescuing migrants at sea. He has previously accused them of being in cahoots with people-smugglers.

 


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