Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Migrant rescue ship denied right to dock in Italy and Malta

Migrant rescue ship denied right to dock in Italy and Malta

In a statement it said the Aquarius took on the migrants in global waters off Libya and rescue operations were coordinated by Italy.

In a statement late Sunday after speaking with his Italian counterpart, Mr Muscat refused to let the ship dock in a Maltese port, but said Malta would conduct emergency medical evacuations if necessary.

Some 629 people, including pregnant women and scores of children, were saved by SOS Mediterranean on Saturday and are stuck aboard the French NGO's ship Aquarius, which is now between Malta and Sicily waiting for a secure port.

He said Malta should accept the Aquarius, but the government in Valletta said those rescued fall under Italy's jurisdiction as they were picked up the migrants in Libyan waters.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League party, said Malta should take in the ship, the Aquarius, but his request was rejected. As such Malta will not take the said vessel in its ports, the statement said. "France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons".

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

The migrants had been rescued during a series of operations on Saturday by Italian maritime ships, cargo vessels and the Aquarius itself. Salvini had earlier issued a joint statement with Italian Transportation Minister Danilo Toninelli of the 5-Star Movement, saying Malta "cannot continue to look the other way when it comes to respecting precise worldwide conventions on the protection of human life".

Malta's government replied to the statement saying Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had spoken to Italian premier Giuseppe Conte, and underlined "that Malta is acting in full conformity with its global obligations".

The minister is being seen as making good on "get-tough" anti-immigration electoral promises by banning the boat in a move which has seismic implications for the European Union and worldwide asylum policy.

More than 600,000 migrants have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years.

And the crisis between the Mediterranean countries may be far from being over, as Italian newspaper Repubblica reported that 800 more people have been saved by both Italian and worldwide boats in Libyan waters overnight.

"Italy has stopped bowing our heads and obeying", Salvini said in a Facebook post.

"Naples is ready, without funds, to save lives", he said. We have always welcomed rescue boats and vessels who saved lives at sea.

"Our sole objective is to bring the people we've rescued, in hard conditions yesterday, to a port of safety", the group said in a statement.

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

Like this: