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'Migrants' search and rescue took place outside operational waters' - Frontex
12 June 2018, 01:30 | Bernice Figueroa
Italy shuts ports to rescue ship carrying 629 migrants
Having come under fire for banning the migrant rescue ship "Aquarius" with 629 people on board from docking at its ports, Italy's new government says it's been left alone by the European Union to deal with the uncontrolled influx of refugees. They've all been rescued at sea after trying to get to Europe from Libya.
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 9, 2018.
It suggested that the hundreds on board "are running out of provisions".
"Saving lives is a duty, turning Italy into a huge refugee camp is not".
He said: "We call on all involved to contribute to a swift resolution so that the people on board the Aquarius vessel may be safely disembarked as soon as possible". The trip would take four to five days, and with so many people aboard the boat and bad weather making seafaring conditions hard, going to Valencia would be "a insane idea".
Rescue at sea is regulated by worldwide law, which "is clear on the fact that any shipmaster has the obligation to provide assistance to persons in distress at sea", said Dr. Sarah Wolff, a lecturer in Public Policy at Queen Mary University, London.
"By closing their ports, Italy and Malta have not only turned their backs on more than 600 desperate and vulnerable people but also on their obligations under worldwide law", Elisa De Pieri, Amnesty International's Italy researcher, said in a statement.
But politics aside, it wasn't certain if the voyage to Spain was feasible given how far that was from the ship's current location and how long the rescue vessel had been at sea.
The Aquarius, a rescue vessel operated by aid organizations Doctors Without Borders (also known as Médecins Sans Frontières) and SOS Mediterranée, was forced to wait in the Mediterranean Sea between Italy and Malta after failing to receive guidance from Italian authorities.
Despite the diplomatic pressure, Italy and Malta held firm, with Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini clearly using the high seas drama as a pretext to force the hand of Italy's European neighbors.
Meanwhile a spokesman for the Maltese government said that "Malta was neither the coordinating nor the competent authority" in the rescue.
Mayors across southern Italy say they're prepared to admit the migrants. "We have never been a situation before where we have been denied a right to a port of safety", he said Monday via a WhatsApp message. "We're closing the ports".
Both the mayors of Valencia and Barcelona offered to take the boat in at their ports.
"Italy has stopped bowing our heads and obeying", Salvini said in a Facebook post.
Italy's new government assumes power at a time when nativist populist parties have growing clout in Europe and its anti-immigrant stance will no doubt be welcomed by Hungary's Viktor Orban, whose government is now trying to criminalize people working for groups that assist asylum seekers.
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