Migrants are saved, but stranded at sea by Italian politics

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.

On Sunday, Italy had refused to allow the vessel to dock in its ports, demanding that Malta should take it in. "Italy has stopped bowing its head and obeying, this time THERE IS SOMEONE WHO SAYS NO. #chiudiamoiporti (#weareclosingtheports)", Salvini wrote on Twitter, as quoted by the Ansa news agency.

Italy's new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said "saving lives is a duty, turning Italy into a huge refugee camp is not".

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said his country had "asked for a gesture of solidarity from Europe and this gesture has been made".

When 629 people were rescued from drowning they might have expected to be treated with some humanity.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen called for the boats to "return where they came from" and said charities rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean were "the accomplices of the people-trafficking mafia".

The move was widely condemned by humanitarian groups, with reports that mayors across southern Italy, including in Palermo and Naples, had pledged to defy Salvini's move and open up their city's ports to the ship. None of migrants are critical but re are many patients, re are seven pregnant women, ten children, 123 unaccompanied minors. The tiny island says it already accepts proportionately more refugees than Italy.

On Monday afternoon, Spain offered to allow the migrant-rescue ship to dock at the port of Valencia "to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe, " though it remained unclear whether or not the ship was able to make the journey to Valencia.

Malta's ports will not take in the Acquarius vessel with hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers on board, which has been stranded in the Mediterranean after the Italian authorities had refused to accept it.

Malta and Italy both thanked Spain for stepping up, but maintained their dispute over who was responsible.

Spain stepped in to help after Italy - which has been on the front line of the migration crisis in Europe - and Malta refused to allow the Aquarius to land despite strong pressure from the global community.

Italy has had to deal with hundreds of thousands of migrants in recent years coming via Libya to reach Europe.

SOS Mediterranee said the Aquarius had enough supplies to feed the migrants at least for another day.

Malta said the rescue operations happened in global waters off Libya and were coordinated by Italy.

Despite his comments, SOS Mediterranee insisted Tuesday that it would continue its rescue activities off the coast of Libya once the Aquarius had returned from Spain. Italy shouldn't have to shoulder the burden by itself, he added, when other European countries aren't doing their fair share. That stance "confirms the latest unwillingness of Malta and, thus, of Europe, to intervene and take care of the emergency".

  • Rogelio Becker