Friday, 21 September, 2018


Row over ship with 600 migrants aboard adrift off Italy

Row over ship with 600 migrants aboard adrift off Italy Row over ship with 600 migrants aboard adrift off Italy
Bennie Garza | 11 June, 2018, 16:37

Malta is in full conformity with global obligations and will not take the vessel in its ports. "This could compromise all the work and cooperation between us over the past few years".

The vessel, now carrying 629 people, has been ordered by the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre late on Sunday to stand put 35 nautical miles from Italy and 27 nautical miles from Malta.

Italy is insisting Malta is the ship's closest safe port of call, but Malta is arguing Italy is responsible under global law as the charity ship had picked up the migrants in Libyan waters.

The charity's spokesperson, Mathilde Auvillain, said the ship had received orders to head north and was now awaiting "definitive instructions". Salvini campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform that also included a vow to expel hundreds of thousands of migrants already in Italy, even though experts doubt such mass deportations are feasible or financially viable. All passengers were offloaded to the Aquarius to be taken to land.

European charity SOS Mediterranee said on Twitter its rescue boat Aquarius had taken on board 629 migrants and refugees, including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children, and seven pregnant women.

Italy's new interior minister Matteo Salvini has called on Malta to open its border.

The Salvini gambit might be crude, against European Union and global law, and an even offence against common decency, but it might also inject a dose of reality.

Migrants on board the rescue vessel Aquarius are unaware of the ongoing diplomatic standoff between Malta and Italy over where they should disembark, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres.

The migrants were saved by SOS Mediterranee on Saturday and are stuck aboard the French NGO's ship Aquarius, which is now between Malta and Sicily waiting for a secure port for her to dock.

Dalli accused the Italian government of breaching global maritime laws by refusing to allow the Aquarius to berth in its ports.

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.

SOS Mediterranee said Maltese search-and-rescue authorities were contacted by their Italian counterparts "to find the best solution for the well-being and safety" of the people on the ship.

More than 600,000 migrants and refugees have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years. Some 400 of the migrants were rescued by the Italian Navy, the Italian coastguard and merchant vessels before being transferred to the Aquarius. The cause of death was yet to be determined.

Human rights groups oppose returning rescued migrants to Libya, where many are held in inhumane conditions, poorly fed and often forced to do slave labor.

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