Published: Mon, June 11, 2018

Dramatic rescue of migrants in Mediterranean

Dramatic rescue of migrants in Mediterranean

Migrants prepare to board the rescue ship Aquarius in the Mediterranean Sea, June 11, 2018.

Italy has called on Mediterranean neighbour, the island of Malta, to open its doors to the vessel.

Some in Italy have offered to take in migrants.

The ship had sailed north toward Italy but Matteo Salvini, the head of the far-right League party who became interior minister this month vowing to curb an influx of migrants from Africa, blocked it and said it should go to Malta instead.

As of June 6, there had been an estimated 785 deaths on the route this year, the IOM said, with the majority of the 33,400 migrants and refugees arriving through Greece and Italy. "Italy is done bowing its head and obeying". "This time we say no".

The crisis arose after both Malta and Italy refused the Aquarius permission to dock, with Rome insisting that that Malta "cannot continue to look the other way when it comes to respecting precise worldwide conventions on the protection of human life" and the Maltese government countering that it was already fulfilling its global obligations.

Italian politicians split over Mr Salvini's decision.

More than 600 people are stuck aboard the ship Aquarius, run by a French charity, which is now waiting between Malta and Italy while the two countries row over who should take responsibility. "All the survivors are exhausted and dehydrated because they spent many hours adrift in these boats". The arrivals, however, fell sharply past year.

The previous Italian government also threatened to close the country's ports last July during last summer's spate of migrant movements across the Mediterranean. But it wasn't certain if the voyage was feasible given the distance and how long the rescue vessel had been at sea. In his first address to the parliament, PM Conte promised his government would steer the country to solve this problem that "has grown out of all proportion under the cloak of fake solidarity".

"As such Malta will not take the said vessel in its ports", their statement continued.

"In the Mediterranean.there's Malta that does now welcome anyone, there is France that rejects [refugees] at its borders, there's Spain that defends its borders with the arms".

"From today, Italy will also start to say no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration".

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

But with 3,116 deaths in 2017, the Mediterranean remained the deadliest migrant route in the world past year, according to the IOM.

"My aim is to guarantee a peaceful life for these youths in Africa and for our children in Italy", Salvini said, using the Twitter hashtag "We are shutting the ports".

Such rhetoric is largely symbolic as the MRCC in Rome is the only organization that can authorize the docking of a foreign-flagged ship in Italy - city mayors do not have the power to do so.

Aid workers aboard said that food would run out by the end of the day on Monday, The Associated Press reports, and they reported injuries ranging from burns to hypothermia.

Italy and Malta had both refused to let the Gibraltar-flagged Aquarius ship, whose passengers include 11 children and seven pregnant women rescued off the coast of Libya at the weekend, to dock, prompting the European Union and the United Nations refugee agency to call for a swift end to the standoff. He has previously accused them of being in cahoots with people-smugglers.

The ship, which is severely overloaded, is operated by SOS Méditerranée and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

SOS Mediterranee said the passengers on its ship, the Aquarius, included 400 people who were picked up by the Italian navy, the country's coastguard and private cargo ships and transferred.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who took over a week ago, gave orders for the boat to be admitted in the port of Valencia, his office said in a statement.

It suggested that the hundreds on board "are running out of provisions".

The United Nations estimates that at least 500 people have died in 2018 trying to cross the central Mediterranean, after 2,853 fatalities past year.

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