Spain offers to dock migrant ship at heart of Italy-Malta standoff

Spain offers to dock migrant ship at heart of Italy-Malta standoff

Spain offers to dock migrant ship at heart of Italy-Malta standoff

The ship Aquarius rescued 629 people in the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday, "including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and seven pregnant women", Reuters reports. "She conveyed to me that the government would designate the port of Valencia as a safe port for this humanitarian operation, which the government will undertake hand in hand with the UN", Puig said, adding that it was good news for Spain and Valencia, which are considered open and welcoming.

In the meantime, some in Italy have offered to take in the migrants, with the mayor of Taranto, Rinaldo Melucci, saying that the southern port city was "ready to embrace every life in danger". "Malta takes in nobody", he said.

"Our only objective is the disembarkation in a port of safety of the people that we rescued yesterday in hard conditions", it said, adding that it "took good note" of the Italian Interior Ministry's statements.

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.

Malta has been asked to take them and they refused.

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

The ship, Aquarius, is operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the SOS Mediterranee organizations.

Italy has called on Mediterranean neighbour, the island of Malta, to open its doors to the vessel.

Italy's new rightwing government has closed its ports to the migrants rescued by a German vessel in Libyan waters.

"The Aquarius has followed the orders of the Maritime Coordination Centre and we are awaiting the designation of a safe port to disembark", explained Nicola Stalla, the coordinator of search and rescue operations of SOS Mediterranee, according to El Pais newspaper.

"Saving lives at sea is a duty, but transforming Italy into an enormous refugee camp is not", he said on Facebook.

Italy's closed its ports to the ship and said it should dock in Malta where Prime Minister Joseph Muscat insists worldwide law determines Italy is responsible for them. The rescue ship was stranded this weekend after Italy and Malta refused to allow it to dock.

The standoff is actually the third in recent weeks, after the outgoing government of Premier Paolo Gentiloni refused to let humanitarian aid groups dock in Italian ports until the ships' flag nations had formally requested permission. "Italy is done bending over backwards and obeying, this time THERE IS SOMEONE WHO SAYS NO", he wrote on Twitter followed by the hashtag #closethedoors. "This time we say no".

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.

Worldwide law says the decision on where a boat must dock depends on the country coordinating the search and rescue operation, but the law "does not say that it should be that country itself".

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.

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