Published: Fri, June 15, 2018
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Italy, Malta must allow disembarkation of stranded migrants

Italy, Malta must allow disembarkation of stranded migrants

Malta insisted that Italy was legally obliged to take the vessel in and refused to allow the vessel into Malta, before Spain ultimately stepped in and agreed to take in the Aquarius.

The row has triggered global concern about the migrants' plight.

Salvini said Malta should disembark the migrants. "It is our obligation to avoid a human catastrophe and offer a safe haven to these people, fulfilling that way the obligations of global law", his government said in a statement.

The charity's spokesperson, Mathilde Auvillain, said the ship had received orders to head north and was now awaiting "definitive instructions".

While thanking Spain for their offer of help, the Maltese Prime minister said Italy had broken worldwide rules and that there was a need to sit down with European partners to avoid an incident like this from happening again.

"I'm a spokesman for the party, not the government, but I can't imagine that France will not play a role in finding a humanitarian solution for this boat", he said.

The European Commission had urged member states to act with responsibility, calling on both Italy and Malta to respond.

Spain stepped in to help after Italy - which has been on the front line of the migration crisis in Europe - and Malta refused to allow the Aquarius to land despite strong pressure from the global community. "This is a European issue".

Aquarius is operated jointly by French NGOs Medecine Sans Frontiers (MSF) and SOS Medeterranee Salvini said "Saving lives is a duty, turning Italy into a huge refugee camp is not".

Ms Robles, who took office in the new centre-Left government of Pedro Sánchez last week, said that what was happening in Italy was "very problematic".

Echoing similar calls by the United Nations and the bloc's biggest member state Germany, Schinas added: "For the commission there is first and foremost a humanitarian imperative, we are talking about people".

Italy's Coast Guard said in a statement that two Italian ships would take on board some of the migrants, easing conditions on the overcrowded Aquarius.

Salvini refused to back down.

While Spain's announcement demonstrates humanitarian and moral leadership, the Italian government's actions are a clear reminder of the ways in which political hostility towards refugees and migrants puts lives at risk.

"From now also Italy begins to say NO to the traffic of human beings, NO to the business of illegal immigration".

The vice president of the regional government, Monica Oltra, was speaking to reporters on Tuesday, after Spain offered to take in the group of migrants, which includes 120 minors and seven pregnant women.

He noted that other European countries are very much involved in current rescue operations in the Mediterranean including a German aid group now off Libya but no country is stepping up to actually take in the migrants.

The ship, with 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and 7 pregnant women aboard, is waiting in global waters between Italy and Malta.

Under EU rules, migrants must apply for asylum in the European country where they first arrive.

In another Facebook post on Monday, Salvini assailed the Sea-Watch 3, another rescue ship operating in Mediterranean waters that had to wait hours to be assigned a disembarkation port over the weekend.

Some in Italy have offered to take in migrants.

They have been waiting more than three nights for somewhere safe to go after being rescued at sea.

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