Tragedies Ahead if Countries Refuse Migrants Rescued at Sea

Migrants remain at sea as Italy-Malta standoff intensifies

The migrants saved by the Aquarius, run by French NGO SOS Mediterranee, were stuck on the overloaded ship for over 30 hours as Italy and Malta bickered over who should take them before Spain stepped in and offered the port in Valencia as a place for the migrants to land in Europe.

Malta's Prime Minsiter Joseph Muscat continued to insist his country is acting according to worldwide law and that it is Italy's duty to take in the migrants, as Italy's coast guard coordinated the rescues off the coast of Libya.

MSF Spain said that while it appreciated the gesture from the Spanish government, it would be unsafe for the boat, which was over capacity and carrying people who needed medical attention, to make the three day trip to Valencia.

Italy's new interior minister has refused permission for a rescue vessel to drop off more than 600 migrants picked up off Libya's coast.

"By closing their ports, Italy and Malta have not only turned their backs on more than 600 desperate and vulnerable people but also on their obligations under global law", Elisa De Pieri, Amnesty International's Italy researcher, said in a statement.

The Council of Europe welcomed Spain's move, with the organization's Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, tweeting: "Saving lives at sea is an obligation that states must always uphold".

Malta's government replied saying Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had spoken to Italian premier Giuseppe Conte and underlined "that Malta is acting in full conformity with its global obligations".

Josep Borrell, Spain's new foreign minister, said the decision to accept the migrants will help push European Union leaders to address migration at a summit later this month.

The ship said it had been ordered on Sunday night by Italy's coast guard to remain 35 miles off Italy and 27 miles from Malta.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said he personally contacted Malta's prime minister, Joseph Muscat, to "explicitly at least take on the human assistance of persons in difficulty aboard the Aquarius".

"This plan would mean already exhausted rescued people would endure four more days travel at sea", it added.

Spain tried to defuse the situation by giving instructions for the boat to dock in Valencia to "avoid a humanitarian disaster" and its crew received official entry approval late on Monday.

Conte said that Italy has sent two patrol ships with doctors on board "ready to intervene and ensure the health of anyone on board the Aquarius who might have the need".

"Saving lives is a duty, turning Italy into a huge refugee camp is not". None of migrants are critical but re are many patients, re are seven pregnant women, ten children, 123 unaccompanied minors.

"The people we saved yesterday were in a hard condition, at least 50 were at risk of drowning".

"If the French have the humility to say they are sorry, we can put it behind us and be friends like before", Salvini told reporters on the sidelines of a business conference.

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