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

Howard TerryJun 12, 2018

On Monday afternoon, Spain offered to take the ship.

Salvini pointed to Malta's unwillingness to help in accusing Europe as a whole of leaving Italy on its own to deal with the refugee crisis.

"It means that we need at least two more days of sailing, which is not possible today with 629 people on board", SOS Mediterranee Maritime Operations Manager Antoine Laurent said. The Rome-based rescue coordination centre gave the instructions. There is also a shortage of blankets, clean clothes and other supplies.

The vessel with 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women on board is stranded in the Mediterranean Sea. The ship is equipped for only around 550 people, according to Aloys Vimard, project coordinator on the Aquarius.

"Enough!" Salvini said Monday.

Nicola Stalla, search-and-rescue coordinator on the search-and-rescue ship Aquarius, told CNN that the situation was unprecedented. "We are talking about people".

The Aquarius spent the day on the water.

"They are becoming more anxious & asking when they will be able to reach shore", SOS Mediterranée tweeted Monday.

In footage posted to Twitter by Euronews and NBC journalist Anelise Borges, women were sitting and lying on the floor in an enclosed area below deck, one fanning another to combat the heat. SOS Mediterranee spokesman Mathilde Auvillain said the ship was "heading north following instructions received after the rescues and transfers" on Saturday night. The proposed changes would arguably increase the pressure on Italy without ensuring a more equitable distribution of responsibility.

Tensions in the Mediterranean are likely to rise as more rescue ships head for the Italian coast.

Salvini, in a joint statement with Italian coastguard minister Danilo Toninelli, insisted that Malta "cannot continue to look the other way when it comes to respecting precise worldwide conventions on the protection of human life". The Aquarius flies the flag of Gibraltar.

"Italy is done bowing its head and obeying", Salvini tweeted on Mondy.

European Union law requires asylum seekers register in the first safe country they reach, but frontline countries such as Italy and Malta say the burden needs to be shared out across the bloc.

The League promised voters during Italy's general election that it would take a tough stance on immigration, the BBC reported. "Malta is neither the competent nor the coordinating authority in this case", the Maltese government said in a statement.

Muscat said he told Conte "that Malta is acting in full conformity with its global obligations".

Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat also refused to take in the Aquarius ship of the humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee. The Italian government also wants to relocate asylum seekers EU-wide - a scheme already rejected by some member states, the BBC said.

"People are in distress, are running out of provisions and need help quickly. We will not stop now", Leoluca Orlando, the mayor of Palermo, said.

In the meantime some in Italy have offered to take in the migrants, with the mayor of Taranto, Rinaldo Melucci, saying that the Calabrian port city was "ready to embrace every life in danger".

With a new government in place in Italy this month, it didn't take long for some new policies to come into effect.

The country refuses to take in migrants because of its small size.

The number of migrants arriving in Spain has been on the rise, Benavides reports, while the number of sea arrivals in Italy "has dropped 77 percent compared to this time past year, following controversial deals with the Libyan Coast Guard and investigations into NGO search-and-rescues". The island nation has reduced the number of migrants it has taken in over the past decade, from a high of 2,775 in 2008 to just 23 a year ago, according to U.N. statistics.

The Mediterranean has always been a key route into Europe for refugees and migrants are using North African states, such as Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt as launch points for journeys.

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