Exclusive report aboard migrant rescue ship barred from docking in Italy

Leroy Wright
June 11, 2018

More than 600,000 migrants have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years. "It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a "safe harbour" to these people in accordance with global law".

Moments before releasing this statement, Valencia's president Ximo Puig said Spain had requested to the United Nations that the ship land in Valencia.

Salvini doubled down on his position, warning another rescue ship, that is registered in the Netherlands and operated by a German charity, that it may not be allowed to dock in Italy if it picks up migrants off Libya, where it is now sailing.

"My aim is to guarantee a peaceful life for these youths in Africa and for our children in Italy", Mr Salvini said, using a Twitter hashtag which translates to, "We are shutting the ports". "He has once again shown that we are under an extreme far-right government" he said, reports The Guardian.

The migrants were saved by SOS Mediterranee on Saturday and are stuck aboard the French NGO's ship Aquarius, which is now between Malta and Sicily waiting for a secure port for her to dock.

Malta, for its part, has consistently refused to take in migrants, citing its small size and limited capacities.

SOS Mediterranee spokeswoman Mathilde Auvillain said the ship was "heading north following instructions received after the rescues and transfers" on Saturday night.

Moreover, Chochetel said that "fundamentally, the principle of rescue at sea must not be put into doubt through incidents like this".

The French organization SOS Mediterranee said the ship was carrying 629 migrants picked up in the Mediterranean on Saturday, including 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women.

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However, Italian officials say 13,500 migrants have been registered so far this year.

Themis' operational area will span the Central Mediterranean Sea from waters covering flows from Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Turkey and Albania. "Malta is neither the competent nor the coordinating authority in this case", the Maltese government said in a statement.

It also said it requested help from the coastguard in Malta to send boats to aid the rescue mission but Malta refused.

Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas also told a news conference the priority needed to remain the people on board.

He said: "We have doctors on board who are taking care of them but it's not definitive care so they do need to be disembarked as soon as possible so they can get the best treatment that they can".

"Nevertheless I am very anxious for the direction taken by Italian authorities".

He said it was ironic that an anti-European government coalition is falling back on the argument that "migration is a European responsibility", while trying to provoke a diplomatic crisis with the Maltese government.

Following an agreement between the Italian and Libyan governments, the number fell in 2018. Stanishev said Italy was refusing to fulfill its own obligations under global law. "Italy is done bowing its head and obeying".

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