Malta: Stranded refugees and migrants must be immediately allowed to dock

Wednesday, 13 Jun, 2018

The migrants, including pregnant women and scores of children, were saved by the French charity SOS Mediterranee on Saturday.

"Malta takes in nobody", he added.

Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted his thanks to Sanchez "for agreeing to accept the Aquarius after Italy violated worldwide law and caused an impasse".

The decision to offer a docking port in the eastern city of Valencia had been a personal and direct move by the country's new prime minister, the Socialist Pedro Sanchez.

The defiant comments from Sophie Beau, head of the charity SOS Mediterranee, suggest the row over the stranded ship could repeat itself - not least as migrant attempts to cross the Mediterranean increase in the warm summer months.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez "has given instructions for Spain to comply with its global commitments in matters of humanitarian crises" according to a Moncloa statement.

"It is our obligation to help to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and to offer a safe port to these people".

The prolonged trip will worsen the already critical conditions of some of those on board, they said.

"The statements concerning (the humanitarian ship) Aquarius that come from France are surprising".

In addition, port state interference with the work of NGO rescue vessels could force merchant ships to take on a bigger role in responding to maritime migrants in distress, the global shipping association said.

But Italy's new anti-establishment government, looking to put pressure on the European Union to rewrite its immigration rules, showed no signs of relenting despite warnings of an approaching storm bringing waves of over two metres.

Also on the shelf was a copy of a book about the cooperation agreement with Putin's United Russia party that Salvini signed in Moscow past year on behalf of his own far-right party.

The migrant influx has led to a populist backlash, with Salvini vowing to prevent Italy from becoming the "refugee camp of Europe". "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.

Muscat said he told Conte "that Malta is acting in full conformity with its worldwide obligations".

The Aquarius rescue vessel was however caught in a dramatic standoff over the weekend that saw Italy and Malta refuse to allow it to dock. After rescuing 229 people from these boats, the Aquarius was requested by the IMRCC to accept a transfer of people who had been rescued by Italian navy and coastguard ships on 9 June.

Under worldwide law, people rescued at sea should be brought to the nearest and safest port for assistance.

A migrant rests on the deck of the MV Aquarius as it sails into the Sicilian port of Messina, on May 14, 2018. Another 21 patients suffered severe chemical burns from exposure to sea water mixed with fuel, while others risk pneumonia and yet others need immediate surgery for orthopedic issues.

After two years at sea in which it has saved almost 30,000 migrants, the Aquarius rescue ship is charting a course for a head-on collision with European governments.

The migrants were rescued in six separate nighttime operations in the central Mediterranean on Saturday.

"Safety of all rescued people should remain the priority before all".

Porro said: "At the moment we are like an ambulance that has been stopped and we don't know where to go".

The Italian government, and others like it including Britain's, want hundreds of people to drown to deter others from trying to flee to Europe to escape war, poverty and climate change.

It singled out France, whose leader earlier was quoted as calling Italy's response "cynical", as having adopted migrant arrivals policies "much more rigid and cynical".

"Naples is ready, without funds, to save lives", he said.