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Spain To Take In Migrant Rescue Ship Amidst Malta-Italy Squabble
11 June 2018, 04:45 | Devin Moran
Italy 'to shut ports' to boat carrying over 600 refugees
"The new government of Italy, an alliance of populists and the far right, has refused to allow a rescue ship to dock in the southern Italian port of Palermo because it fears a loss of support in local elections".
In a statement late Sunday after speaking with his Italian counterpart, Mr Muscat refused to let the ship dock in a Maltese port, but saidMalta would conduct emergency medical evacuations if necessary.
Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini, head of the League party, said: "Enough!" Numbers have dropped dramatically in recent months, but rescues have increased in recent days, presenting Salvini with his first test as minister.
Valletta said that since the rescue happened in the Libyan search and rescue area and was coordinated from Rome, Malta is neither the coordinating authority nor has the competence to settle this issue, thus it would not take in the migrants and asylum seekers.
However, Salvini does not have authority over the ports and it was not immediately clear if his line would hold.
Naples is "ready, without funds, to save human lives", the mayor of Naples tweeted, calling Salvini a "heartless minister".
Among those on board are 400 migrants rescued by the Italian navy and merchant vessels before being transferred to the Aquarius.
Given that Italy's decision to close their ports was the first strong-man move from anti-immigration Home Affairs Minister and Leader of the League (LEGA), one of the two parties of the ruling coalition, and the murky waters surrounding global obligations, it would appear that the stalemate may continue.
Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, who is nominally in charge of the ports, said: "Malta can not continue looking the other way when it comes to respecting global conventions". The vessel with 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women on board is stranded in the Mediterranean Sea.
"Malta is neither the competent nor the coordinating authority in this case".
Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat said: "The Italian government is breaching worldwide rules and, with its attitude, is risking to create a situation that would be unsafe to everyone". It added that the Aquarius "is still waiting for definitive instructions regarding the port of safety".
"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.
The migrants were rescued by Aquarius in six separate night-time operations in the central Mediterranean on Saturday.
The United Nations estimates that at least 500 people have died in 2018 trying to cross the central Mediterranean, following some 2853 fatalities a year ago.
"Malta is not acting, France rejects them, and Europe doesn't care", Salvini wrote.
On Friday, he suggested North Atlantic Treaty Organisation intervene to protect Italy, saying the country is "under attack from the south".
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