Migrants Stranded at Sea Amid Standoff Between Italy and Malta

Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini

Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini

In the standoff between Italy and Malta over a migrant ship stranded in the Mediterranean, both have insisted on their right to refuse a vessel entry to their ports.

European charity, SOS Méditerranée, said the group of sub-Saharan Africans were picked up in six different rescue operations off the coast of Libya.

Italy's new deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, had said the country would not allow the ship to dock in any of its ports.

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

"People are in distress, are running out of provisions and need help quickly".

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Sunday that Rome had 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".

The standoff marked the first display of Italy's get-tough immigration policy under the right-wing, xenophobic League.

But Salvini, who channeled Trump last week by telling reporters at a refugee camp in Sicily that Tunisia "isn't exporting gentlemen, it seems more often they're exporting convicts", responded defiantly to calls for mercy, even from the Vatican. 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 rescue ship's crew pulled 229 migrants from the water or from traffickers" unseaworthy boats on Saturday night, including 123 unaccompanied children and seven pregnant women. "Italy is done bowing its head and obeying".

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Salvini pointed to Malta's unwillingness to help in accusing Europe as a whole of leaving Italy on its own to deal with the refugee crisis.

A humanitarian ship with more than 600 migrants on board remains adrift in global waters as Italy and Malta are at loggerheads over which country should take them. "We have never been a situation before where we have been denied a right to a port of safety", he said Monday via a WhatsApp message. In a video, she said: "People are slowly getting up and getting ready for their first meal and we are yet to learn which port they are going to be using to disembark".

SOS Mediterranee tweeted late Sunday that the Aquarius had received instructions from the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre to stand by in its current position 35 nautical miles from Italy and 27 nautical miles from Malta.

He tweeted:.Chiudiamoiporti. "We're closing the ports".

In an attempt to ease the stalemate, a number of mayors of port cities in Italy on Monday said that they would allow the ship to dock in their cities.

As of June 6, there had been an estimated 785 deaths on the route this year, the IOM said, with the majority of the 33,400 migrants and refugees arriving through Greece and Italy.

Italy's southern Adriatic coast has been included, but vessels' typical operational area will be reduced from 30 nautical miles (55.6 kilometres) from the Italian coast to 24 miles (44.5 kilometres).

Italy's new government assumes power at a time when nativist populist parties have growing clout in Europe and its anti-immigrant stance will no doubt be welcomed by Hungary's Viktor Orban, whose government is now trying to criminalize people working for groups that assist asylum seekers.

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