Spain takes in 629 migrants stuck in the Mediterranean

Spain takes in 629 migrants stuck in the Mediterranean

Italy has refused to grant access to another migrant rescue ship right after denying entry to nearly 630 migrants on board the rescue vessel Acquarius, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said.

Migrants are rescued by staff members of the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship run in partnership between SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres in the central Mediterranean Sea, June 10, 2018.

Matteo Salvini, Italy's hardline interior minister and leader of the anti-immigration League party, called on the country to "close the ports" and pledged Sunday to "STOP the filthy business of illegal immigration".

"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".

He also complained, on Facebook that: "Malta takes in nobody".

The U.N. refugee agency said Monday that there was "an urgent humanitarian imperative" to act, calling on governments to accept the distressed migrants now and resolve "broader issues" later.

"The island can not continue looking the other way when it comes to respecting worldwide conventions", said the statement, which was signed by Salvini and transport minister Danilo Toninelli, who is nominally in charge of the ports. In a statement it said the Aquarius took on the migrants in global waters off Libya and rescue operations were coordinated by Italy.

Mr. Galietti said it is not known whether the agreement struck with Libya by the last Italian government to slow the flow of migrants will automatically transfer to the new Italian government.

Italy has long demanded that the European Union change its migration policy and make good on promises to accept more refugees, saying that Italy has been left alone to coordinate rescues and accept tens of thousands of migrants a year for asylum processing.

SOS Mediterranee spokesperson Mathilde Auvillain said the Aquarius had received orders to head north after a series of sea rescues and was now awaiting "definitive instructions".

"If we can't rely on getting relief in any of those ports, I personally say we can't go back out" for additional missions, said Klaus Stadler, the captain of a rescue boat operated by the German NGO Sea-Eye.

But no matter the goodwill Sánchez receives, analysts and migration experts said Spanish ports don't represent a sustainable alternative for vessels rescuing migrants stranded in the Mediterranean, given the distance those boats would need to travel, as well as existing pressures in Spain.

"It says that the country responsible for operations in that area has primary responsibility for taking them from the ship". Some of those on board are reportedly pregnant women, and 15 others have serious chemical burns.

The aid group said in a statement it had taken "good note" of Mr Salvini's stance, as reported earlier by Italian media. He noted that other European countries are very much involved in migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean - including a German aid group now off the coast Libya - but no country is stepping up to actually take in the migrants once they are plucked from boats or the sea.

Also on Monday, Salvini signaled his intention to prevent a second foreign-flagged search-and-rescue vessel, Sea Watch 3, operated by a group of German volunteers and now positioned off the coast of Libya, from docking.

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