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Spain: We'll Take Migrants From Drifting Ship Aquarius That Italy, Malta Rejected


Italy's new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has refused permission for a rescue vessel to drop off 629 migrants picked up off the Libya's coast saying ports were closed to migrants from that country, the Guardian reported.

The government statement said Spain wanted to comply with its global responsibilities on humanitarian crises.

But there are no excuses for Salvini's unsafe rhetoric, which is likely to inflame social tensions and intolerance while promoting policies that are both unrealistic and unsavory.

Spain has stepped in and said it would be welcoming the Aquarius, with 629 migrants on board, and allow it to dock in Valencia.

Around 400 of those on board were rescued by the Italian Navy, the Italian coastguard and merchant vessels before being transferred to the Aquarius. "Malta will observe prevailing laws", its government said in a brief statement.

Some 629 people, including pregnant women and scores of children, were saved by SOS Mediterranean Saturday and are stuck aboard the French NGO's ship Aquarius, which is now between Malta and Sicily waiting for a secure port. The ship is equipped for only around 550 people, according to Aloys Vimard, project coordinator on the Aquarius. "Basically, everyone in Europe does their own business", Salvini said.

A spokesman on board the rescue ship told RAINEWS24 channel today that the conditions of the passengers were generally good and that the situation on board was calm.

"The people we saved yesterday were in a hard condition, at least 50 were at risk of drowning". "We are nonetheless prepared to take care of the rescued people until we are".

Earlier in the day, the European Commission had urged action.

Dozens of people had spent nearly a full day in the water by the time the Aquarius reached them, Laura Garel, communication officer with SOS Méditerranée France, told CNN on Monday.

"They are becoming more anxious & asking when they will be able to reach shore", SOS Mediterranée tweeted Monday. "It's unbearably hot where they are", Borges tweeted. "We need to know who is arriving", a local man, Salvo Cavallaro said, "these 600 people, we don't know who they are".

Women and children sleep below deck, watched over by a midwife, while the men sleep on the open deck, covered only with tarpaulin. "Encouraging change in humanitarian policy from (Sanchez's) government", Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau wrote on Twitter after the government's offer.

However, journalists aboard the Aquarius are now reporting that the organisers of the rescue mission, from the NGOs SOS Méditerranée and Medecins Sans Frontieres, have decided travelling to Valencia would be too risky. The Aquarius flies the flag of Gibraltar. "Italy has stopped bowing down, it's now time to say no".

A migrant rests on the deck of the MV Aquarius as it sails into the Sicilian port of Messina, on May 14, 2018.

The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, and the mayor of Valencia, Joan Ribó, had previously offered to take in the 629 migrants who are now on the Aquarius, after having been rescued from the Mediterranean by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Sos Mediterranée.

The Maltese Rescue Coordination Center "is neither the competent nor the coordinating authority", the statement said.

"Malta takes in nobody".

Vincent Cochetel, the United Nation's High Commissioner For Refugees' (UNHCR's) Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean appealed to the two countries to deal with the "urgent humanitarian imperative here" first.

The reason Italy refused to accept the migrants despite the fact the majority of them were rescued by the Italian authorities is a political one, Dr Wolff added.

"Naples is ready, without funds, to save lives", he said. Stanishev said Italy was refusing to fulfill its own obligations under global law.

Still, both Muscat and new Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte readily thanked Spain for the offer, with Conte saying "it goes in the direction of solidarity".

Nationalist Party MEP Roberta Metsola has taken a pot shot against Joseph Muscat over the developing migrant crisis, describing him as a "populist" in a "contest of one-upmanship". The arrivals, however, fell sharply past year. Italy is the entry point for migrants from North Africa going to Europe.

Italy has had to accept some 700,000 migrants since 2013, in line with the controversial Dublin Regulation requiring to declare refugee status in their first country of arrival. Right-wing politicians have accused charity boats operating off the coast of Libya of operating as "taxis" for migrants.