629 migrants stranded after Italy’s populists refuse to let rescue ship dock

629 migrants stranded after Italy’s populists refuse to let rescue ship dock

The ship, Aquarius, is operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the

SOS Mediterranee

organizations.

Aquarius rescued 629 people Saturday night into Sunday morning — taking on people from two rubber vessels as well as “Italian navy ships, Italian coast guard ships and merchant vessels” in six different operations, MSF and

SOS said

on Twitter.

The organizations said the boat was located 35 nautical miles from Italy and 27 nautical miles from Malta.

The Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center told Aquarius Sunday to

“standby in [their] current position,” MSF tweeted.

Europe ‘minding its own private interest’

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini wrote on Facebook Sunday morning that Italy was saying “no” to human trafficking.

“In the Mediterranean Sea, there are boats carrying Dutch, Spanish, Gibraltar and British flags. There are NGO’s from Spain and Germany, meanwhile there is also Malta that does not welcome anyone.

“There is France too, that refuses and pushes back at their border. There is Spain that protects their own borders with weapons, well, that means all of Europe is minding its own private interest,” Salvini wrote.

“Starting today Italy will commence to say NO to human trafficking, NO to the business of clandestine immigration.

“My objective is to guarantee a peaceful life to all these people in Africa and to our children in Italy.”

MSF said earlier

that Italy had reportedly asked Malta to disembark the rescued migrants there.

Malta: Situation dangerous

However, Malta’s Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security has issued a statement saying Malta is not responsible for the rescue effort coordinated by the Aquarius.

Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Twitter

that he had taken a call from his Italian counterpart Giuseppe Conte to discuss the issue.

“Malta is in full conformity with international obligations & will not take the vessel in its ports. We will continue,where possible, carrying out individual&humanitarian emergency medical evacuations,” Muscat tweeted.

In a separate tweet

he added: “We are concerned at #Italy authorities’ directions given to #Acquarius on high seas. They manifestly go against international rules, and risk creating a dangerous situation for all those involved.”

On Twitter, MSF expressed concern that “again politics are being placed above people’s lives.

“The priority must be the importance of the well being & safety of the people on board,” it said. MSF project coordinator Aloys Vimard

told journalist Anelise Borges

that the ship had enough food and water for two to three days.

“States and actors involved should rapidly find solutions to allow migrants and refugees on board the #Aquarius to disembark safely and quickly. Hundreds of people urgently need assistance, slowing down operations puts their well being at risk,” it said.

MSF said there were 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and seven pregnant women among the migrants on board the Aquarius.

I

t earlier described

the ship heading towards the Search and Rescue zone (SAR) off the coast of Libya after reports of multiple smaller vessels in distress.

Deadly crossing

Since the height of the crisis in 2015, governments across Europe have sought to fortify their countries’ borders. In February 2017, EU leaders outlined plans to stem the flow of migrants traveling across the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy, and boost the ability of the EU to send people back.

But with 3,116 deaths in 2017, the Mediterranean remained the deadliest migrant route in the world last year, despite a sharp fall in attempted crossings,

according to International Organization for Migration (IOM).

It said just under 70% of the 171,635 migrants who entered Europe by sea had arrived in Italy.

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.

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