Italy or Malta must let stranded migrants land 'immediately'

Clay Curtis
June 11, 2018

Malta is insisting its stand is in line with its worldwide obligations that state any rescued people should be taken to the closest, safest port of call. "This could compromise all the work and cooperation between us over the past few years".

The Aquarius ship, run by the NGO SOS Méditerranée, was en route to Sicily with 628 people on board but was left stranded yesterday after Italy shut its ports and demanded Malta take it instead.

Italy's new interior minister threatened to bar rescue ships from docking in the country's ports after Malta refused to take hundreds of migrants, reports say.

Doctors Without Borders operates the Aquarius ship, together with the SOS Mediterranean Organisations.

SOS Mediterranee said late Sunday that it had received instructions from Italian authorities to hold position between Malta and Italy after previously heading north.

Mr Salvini said on Sunday Italy was saying "no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration".

"Malta takes in nobody". "Italy is done bowing its head and obeying".

The Aquarius, a rescue vessel run by Medecins Sans Frontieres, is now stranded in global waters after Italy closed its ports.

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Migrants on board the rescue vessel Aquarius are unaware of the ongoing diplomatic standoff between Malta and Italy over where they should disembark, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres.

The Maltese authorities have been insisting that since the rescue happened in the Libyan search and rescue area and was coordinated from Rome, Malta is neither the coordinating authority nor has the competence to settle this issue, thus it would not take in the migrants and asylum seekers.

Despite the claim by Mayor Orlando that the government stands in opposition to worldwide law by closing the ports to migrant smuggling operations, a distinguished expert on global maritime law Admiral Paolo Caffio has given his verdict, stating that not only is it legal, but there is also precedent, reports Il Giornale.

The aid group said in a statement it had taken "good note" of Salvini's stance, as reported earlier by Italian media.

Dalli accused the Italian government of breaching global maritime laws by refusing to allow the Aquarius to berth in its ports.

Mr Salvini says he is considering action against organisations rescuing migrants at sea. The cause of death was yet to be determined. Right-wing politicians have accused charity boats operating off the coast of Libya of operating as "taxis" for migrants.

Italy has had to deal with hundreds of thousands of migrants in recent years coming via Libya to reach Europe.

The United Nations estimates that at least 500 people have died in 2018 trying to cross the central Mediterranean, following some 2853 fatalities previous year.

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