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Monday, 11 June 2018

629 African Migrants - Including 120 Children & Seven Pregnant Women Left Stranded In Mediterranean Sea After Italy and Malta Both Refuse To Let The Vessel Dock At Their Ports

Italy turns away a rescue boat carrying 600 migrants
The Aquarius rescue ship (top right) saved 629 migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday, but neither Italy nor Malta has so far allowed it to dock. The two nations are currently locked in a standoff, with Italy's new interior minister Matteo Salvini threatening to bar all rescue ships from docking in the country's ports unless Malta takes on the Aquarius. 

The ship, which is run by charities SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders, is currently drifting in international waters, having been instructed to 'standby' by the Italian coastguard, which co-coordinated Saturday's rescue effort. Among the hundreds onboard (left and bottom right) are more than 120 unaccompanied children and seven pregnant women. The United Nations is now calling on the governments of Italy and Malta to 'allow the immediate disembarkation' of the migrants as the ship is 'running out of provisions' and some onboard need medical care.


Salvini reportedly sent a letter to the Maltese authorities saying he would 'be forced to close Italy's ports' if the 629 migrants saved by the charities SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders weren't allowed to land at Malta's capital Valletta.


Italy's interior ministry said they had so far been unable to confirm the existence of the letter. 


'Saving lives at sea is a duty, but transforming Italy into an enormous refugee camp is not,' Salvini, the leader of the right-wing anti-migrant League party, said on Facebook on Monday. 
'Italy is done bowing its head and obeying. This time there's someone saying no.' 
The Aquarius is currently drifting in international waters between Italy and Malta, having been instructed to 'stand by' by the Italian coastguard, which co-coordinated Saturday's rescue effort, SOS Mediterranee said.
A woman is helped by crew on the the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship run in partnership between SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres in the Mediterranean
A woman is helped by crew on the the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship run in partnership between SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres in the Mediterranean
The Aquarius is currently drifting in international waters between Italy and Malta, having been instructed to 'standby' by the Italian coastguardĀ 
The Aquarius is currently drifting in international waters between Italy and Malta, having been instructed to 'standby' by the Italian coastguard 
Where to go: The operation has been coordinated by the Italian coastguard, and the ship is currently awaiting instructions on where it can dock
Where to go: The operation has been coordinated by the Italian coastguard, and the ship is currently awaiting instructions on where it can dock
The United Nations refugee agency has today called on the governments of Italy and Malta to 'allow the immediate disembarkation' of the migrants on the Aquarius, adding that those onboard 'are running out of provisions.' 

WHY IS THE AQUARIUS STUCK AT SEA?

This weekend's rescue operation on the Aquarius has been carried out by SOS Mediterranee in partnership with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and coordinated by the Italian coastguard.
As such, it is the Italians who are responsible for telling the Aquarius where it may dock, and Italian Coast Guard vessels picked up more than 280 of the 629 migrants and transferred them to the Aquarius to be taken to safety.
Currently, the Aquarius has been ordered to 'stand by' in its current position 35 nautical miles from Italy and 27 nautical miles from Malta.
It is not known how long the Aquarius can remain at sea, as Italy has said it is will provide aid on patrol ships, but is awaiting further instructions from the Italian coastguard.
A crew member who spoke to a local news channel warned that dozens of people on board are in need of medical care, and that the ship needs to dock - regardless of in which country. 
'The people we saved yesterday [Saturday] were in a difficult condition, at least 50 were at risk of drowning,' Aquarius crew member Alessandro Porro told news channel Sky TG24.
'We need to have an idea of what port to go to, something that up to now we haven't had.' 
However, Italian premier Giuseppe 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'.  
The Maltese government insists that the rescue had taken place in the Libyan search and rescue area and was headed up by the rescue coordination centre in Rome, meaning Malta has no legal obligation to take in the migrants. 
Meanwhile, despite the  government's refusal, several Italian cities have offered to let the Aquarius dock. 
The mayor of the southern port of Taranto, Rinaldo Melucci, said the city was 'ready to embrace every life in danger'.
'Our land has always been one of refuge, I don't know how you can send away 629 human lives,' he added.
The 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'.  
Spanish press has reported that the city of Valencia, on the south-eastern coast has offered to let the migrants disembark, but it is not known if the offer has officially been extended to the Italian coastguard.

Some 400 of the migrants on the Aquarius had been picked up by the Italian navy, the country's coastguard and private cargo ships, and then transferred onto the larger vessel, SOS Mediterranee said Sunday.
On Saturday night, the Aquarius rescued another 229 migrants, including 123 unaccompanied children and seven pregnant women. 
Italy's spat with Malta began after its reported refusal to come to the aid of another rescue ship Seefuchs, which was stranded with 126 migrants on board due to violent seas until it was allowed to dock at the Sicilian port of Pozzallo on Saturday.
EU rules mean migrants must apply for asylum in the European country where they first arrive, putting pressure on Italy and Greece, the entry points for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia since 2015.  
Stuck: SOS Mediterranee's ship, the Aquarius (pictured in April, 2018), carries some 630 people who were picked up by the Italian navy
Stuck: SOS Mediterranee's ship, the Aquarius (pictured in April, 2018), carries some 630 people who were picked up by the Italian navy
At the weekend, Italian authorities held the migrant rescue boat Sea-Watch 3 for 12 hours after it brought 232 people to Reggio Calabria, on the south-western tip of the mainland. 
Police questioned the boat's captain for more than four hours, according to Sea-Watch - the NGO that operates the vessel - and journalists aboard were asked to hand over video footage of the June 5 rescue operation.
Sea-Watch said it requested help from the coastguard in Malta to send boats to aid the rescue mission but Malta refused.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday called for an EU-wide border protection force, as well as a joint asylum authority and collective standards for granting or refusing applications for protection.
EU leaders in December had set an end-of-June deadline for an overhaul of rules to create a permanent mechanism to deal with migrants in the event of a new emergency.
The summer of 2016 saw a surge in mass drownings in the Mediterranean as Europe's worst migration crisis since World War II peaked with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere. 
The United Nations says at least 785 migrants have died crossing the sea so far this year. 
Via - Dailymail

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