Published: Wed, June 13, 2018

Refugee Crisis: Spain offers ship bearth as Italy, Malta refuse

Refugee Crisis: Spain offers ship bearth as Italy, Malta refuse

Italy brought fresh supplies to the Aquarius early on Tuesday ahead of the planned transfer of some of the migrants, who include more than 100 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women, to other boats.

Spain has offered to take them in, which Macron praised during the Cabinet meeting.

Following Italy's decision, Malta also said it would not accept the ship either so it remained in standby between the two countries for days.

After two years at sea in which it has saved almost 30,000 migrants, the Aquarius rescue ship is charting a course for a head-on collision with European governments.

Some in Italy have offered to take in migrants.

The Italian Coast Guard said it had contacted countries that are responsible for the waters the Aquarius convoy will cross to ensure authorities are on alert if there were any possible medical emergencies among the migrants that require outside intervention.

Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini - who is also Deputy Prime Minister - has promised to deport hundreds of thousands of economic migrants, warning that Italy would not be "Europe's refugee camp".

They were also concerned the vessel, which was built to transport just 500 people, could not safely carry all 629 of those rescued at sea.

Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat accused Italy of violating worldwide norms governing sea rescues and said the government's stance risked "creating a unsafe situation for all those involved".

"There is a degree of cynicism and irresponsibility in the Italian government's behaviour with regards to this dramatic humanitarian situation", Griveaux quoted Macron as saying.

On June 3, Salvini went to Pozzallo, a Sicilian port where many rescued migrants and refugees disembark, to thunder that the "good times are over" for undocumented migrants and to insinuate that nongovernmental organizations saving lives in the central Mediterranean are complicit with smugglers. In practical terms, no ships of this type will be able to land without cooperation of the Italian coastguard, which is under the direct command of the Italian government.

Salvini's migration policies may well face challenges not only from Italy's vibrant civil society groups but also in the courts and from European Union institutions.

SOS Mediterranee spokeswoman Mathilde Auvillain said the ship was "heading north following instructions received after the rescues and transfers" on Saturday night.

"Italy can not accept hypocritical lessons from countries that have always preferred to turn their backs when it comes to immigration", Conte said in a statement.

The head of the French charity which charters the Aquarius migrant rescue ship said Tuesday that it would continue its operations despite the global standoff over the 629 people now onboard.

"No French port, not Corsica, not Nice, not Marseille", he told CNews.

"There are more than 600 people onboard, they are exhausted, they want to get to safety, there is, of course, a lot of tension among them because they are not sure what is going to happen", she added.

The far-right League scored its best-ever result in March national elections and has formed a coalition government with the anti-system 5-Star Movement.

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