Spain offers to take in stranded migrant ship

Spain offers to take in stranded migrant ship

Hundreds of migrants stranded on board the Aquarius rescue vessel in the Mediterranean will be transferred to Italian ships and taken to Spain, French charity SOS Mediterranee said Tuesday.

Migrants are rescued by staff members of the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship run in partnership between SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres in the central Mediterranean Sea, June 10, 2018. The rescue service said its patrol craft reached nine different boats carrying migrants that had left from Africa on Saturday and early Sunday.

The 629 people now on board Aquarius were rescued during night of Saturday to Sunday, when Aquarius carried out six rescue and transfer operations in the space of nine hours - all under instruction from the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (IMRCC).

"No French port - not Corsica, not Nice, not Marseille [should take in the Aquarius]", Mr Ciotti told the French television channel CNews, adding that the migrant ship should "head back towards the Libyan coast".

Some of the minors come from Eritrea, Ghana, Nigeria and Sudan.

Since the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean escalated three years ago, over 50,000 people have already been rescued by merchant ships, with many more rescued by military vessels and boats operated by humanitarian NGOs.

Italy's hardline immigration policy under its new populist government could have knock-on effects in neighbouring France, where President Emmanuel Macron has also tightened immigration laws to crack down on illegal arrivals.

Italy's refusal to accept the Aquarius was the first major anti-migrant move since the far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, took office this month.

Europe should recognize that Italy needs greater support to ensure a humane approach to migrants and to protect refugees, but also be willing to insist that Italy's government respect human rights.

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MSF Sea (Doctors Without Borders) said the medical situation of those on the Aquarius was "stable for now but unnecessary delay to disembarkation in safe port puts vulnerable patients at risk".

"Italy has stopped bowing our heads and obeying", Salvini said in a Facebook post.

Mr Malvini said it was time for Italy to "say no to human trafficking".

Could the migrants have gone to Malta? They need to go to the port that is safest and closest.

A cargo ship from Malta has provided some extra supplies, but it is not known if this will sustain the ship for another 72 hours. The country has often complained that the European Union was not doing enough to help with the influx of around 700,000 African migrants since 2013.

Malta and Italy thanked Spain for stepping up, but maintained their dispute over who was responsible. "Plan from MRCC (the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) Rome is that rescued people will later be transferred on Italian ships before heading together to" the eastern Spanish port of Valencia, rescue charity SOS Mediterranee said on Twitter.

Both the Mayor of Barcelona and the Mayor of Valencia offered their cities to take in the ship, with the latter being the end destination for the Aquarius' 1,300 km route.

Salvini tried to defuse tensions and in a tweet said that "Spain wants to denounce us, France says that I'm 'nauseating.' I want to work calmly with everybody but with a principal: #firsttheitalians".

"It remains to be seen if the Italian center could be under breach of worldwide law".