Italy denounces 'hypocritical lessons' on migrants from France

Clay Curtis
June 13, 2018

Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini told Italian media that a second humanitarian ship, the Sea Watch 3, which is now navigating off the Libyan coast, will not be allowed into Italian ports, if and when it is involved in a migrant rescue operation.

Spain's new prime minister, Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE), had offered to take in the immigrants on Monday following Italy and Malta's refusal to let the rescue ship Aquarius dock in either country.

"The prime minister has given instructions for Spain to honour worldwide commitments on humanitarian crises and announced that the country will receive the ship Aquarius", his office said in a statement.

The ship was heading for the Italian port of Messina Sunday when Italian officials ordered it to stop and remain in place, 27 miles west of Malta and 35 miles south west of mainland Italy.

Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini, from the far right Lega, wrote, "Saving lives at sea is a duty, but transforming Italy into an enormous refugee camp is not".

Salvini pointed to Malta's unwillingness in accusing Europe as a whole of leaving Italy on its own to deal with the refugee crisis.

Malta's government replied saying Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had spoken to Italian premier Giuseppe Conte and underlined "that Malta is acting in full conformity with its global obligations".

People on board the vessel, which has been stranded in the Mediterranean after both Italy and Malta refused to allow it to dock at the weekend, will be transferred to Italian ships and be given food and water.

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Another local resident, Natale Lombardo, said illegal migrants disembarking on the island were virtually "invading" them, adding that "he who arrives here legally is welcomed, but between these people there are also illegals and those can't be tolerated".

With a storm approaching, Doctors Without Borders said on Tuesday that Italy wanted to transfer some of the 629 migrants onto Italian vessels and then head together to Valencia, Spain.

But the charity's missions will continue "as long as there are people drowning in the Mediterranean, as long as we have the resources, and as long as we are able to act and we are not kicked out of the area", she said.

Porro said: "At the moment we are like an ambulance that has been stopped and we don't know where to go".

The migrants were rescued in six separate night-time operations in the central Mediterranean on Saturday.

Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted his thanks to Sanchez "for agreeing to accept the Aquarius after Italy violated global law and caused an impasse".

Doctors Without Borders (known by its French initials, MSF) has urged European Union member states to give a boat packed with 629 rescued refugees and migrants immediate right to disembark, a day after Spain granted the vessel rights to dock in its territory. "I'm very happy for the mayors. and because we have reached the [mayoral] run-off in cities that have always been hard for us", Salvini said.

In a statement issued Monday, the International Chamber of Shipping warned that refusing port access to vessels like the Aquarius could have "serious implications for the safety and welfare of these distressed people, including children and pregnant women".

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