Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Rescue boat drifts at sea as Italy takes anti-migrant stance

Rescue boat drifts at sea as Italy takes anti-migrant stance Rescue boat drifts at sea as Italy takes anti-migrant stance
Melinda Barton | 11 June, 2018, 15:25

The ship, with 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and seven pregnant women aboard, is waiting in worldwide waters between Italy and Malta, which has also refused to take them in.

In a statement late Sunday after speaking with his Italian counterpart, Muscat refused to let the ship dock in a Maltese port, but said Malta will conduct emergency medical evacuations if necessary.

"The rescue ship's crew pulled 229 migrants from the water or from traffickers" unseaworthy boats on Saturday night, including 123 unaccompanied children and seven pregnant women.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League party, said Malta should take in the ship, the Aquarius, but his request was rejected.

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

In another tweet he says, "Today even the ship Sea Watch 3, a German NGO and the Dutch flag, is off the coast of Libya waiting to bring the umpteenth load of immigrants, to Italy".

Salvini's comments came after another spat with Malta following its reported refusal to come to the aid of another rescue ship Seefuchs, which was stranded with 126 migrants on board due to violent seas until it was allowed to dock in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo on Saturday.

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

A spokesman for the Maltese government told AFP that "the rescue of the migrants took place in the Libyan search and rescue area and was headed up by the rescue coordination centre in Rome, meaning Malta has no legal obligation to take in the migrants".

Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat said: "The Italian government is breaching global rules and, with its attitude, is risking to create a situation that would be unsafe to everyone".

The standoff marked the first inevitable clash over migrant rescues with League leader Salvini, now running Italy's interior ministry.

Mr Salvini says he wants to "stop the death boats".

For years the European Union has largely ignored Italy's rising fury at being left to deal with the migration crisis (even when it came from more politically acceptable figures like Matteo Renzi) but with Mr Salvini in charge, that may no longer be possible.

Left-wing mayor Luigi De Magistris said he would welcome in the humanitarian boat and added: "Naples is ready, without funds, to save lives".

However, Mr Salvini does not have authority over the ports and it was not immediately clear if his line would hold. Some 400 of the migrants were rescued by the Italian Navy, the Italian coastguard and merchant vessels before being transferred to the Aquarius.