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Exclusive report aboard migrant rescue ship barred from docking in Italy

Exclusive report aboard migrant rescue ship barred from docking in Italy

Salvini and Italian Transportation Minister Danilo Toninelli, who is part of the 5-Star Movement faction in the new government, said in a joint statement Sunday that it was Malta's responsibility to "open its ports for the hundreds of the rescued on the NGO ship Aquarius".

The vessel, which is carrying 629 migrants, including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and seven pregnant women has been refused entry into both Malta and Sicily and is now circling in global waters some 27 nautical miles from Maltese territorial waters and 35 miles from Italian waters.

"Starting today, Italy, too, begins to say NO to the trafficking of human beings, NO to the business of clandestine immigration", Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-migrant League party, tweeted on Sunday.

Malta refused, saying it had nothing to do with the rescue mission, which was overseen by Italian coastguard.

More than 600,000 migrants have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years.

"Malta takes in nobody. This time there's someone saying no".

The Aquarius carrying would be immigrants arrives in the port of Catania, on the island of Sicily on March 21, 2017 after a rescue operation in the Mediterranean sea, where some 946 would be immigrants were rescued. "People are in distress, are running out of provisions and need help quickly".

"Broader issues such as who has responsibility and how these responsibilities can best be shared between states should be looked at later", UNHCR special envoy Vincent Cochetel said.

Meanwhile a spokesman for the Maltese government said that "Malta was neither the coordinating nor the competent authority" in the rescue.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat thanked Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez for taking the Aquarius in "after Italy broke global rules and caused a standoff".

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Since Friday, the German branch of the SOS Mediterranee NGO has been rescuing migrants and asylum seekers in the Mediterranean and taking them on board Acquarius. Picture taken June 10, 2018.

The Mayor of Palermo, one of those cities keen to defy Italy's new populist, anti-establishment left-right coalition government, caught headlines with his remarks when he said of his decision to open the port: "Palermo in ancient Greek meant "complete port".

Mayor of Naples Luigi de Magistris said on Twitter that "if a minister without a heart leaves pregnant women, children, old people, human being to die, the port of Naples is ready to welcome them".

The European Commission urged action.

"We are talking about people".

Speaking to news channel Sky TG24, Aquarius crew member Alessandro Porro said that they were north of Malta and had "received no communications from the Maltese authorities".

"We are concerned at Italy authorities' directions given to Aquarius on high seas".

But Muscat, "while comprehending the situation", rebuffed him, Conte said in a Facebook post late Sunday.

"That's why we ask the government in Valletta to take in the Aquarius in order to offer first aid to the migrants on board", the statement continued.


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