European Union urges 'swift resolution' on stranded migrants

11 June, 2018, 22:49 | Author: Myra Gill
  • 629 migrants on ship in limbo after Italy Malta refusal

The vessel is in waters off Malta and Italy.

On Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte asked Malta to take the African migrants aboard the Aquarius, but Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat rejected the request, arguing his country had no obligation under global law to accept them.

Human rights groups oppose returning rescued migrants to Libya, where many are held in inhumane conditions, poorly fed and often forced to do slave labor.

Refugees and migrants are transferred to the SOS Mediterranee Aquarius rescue ship a day after being rescued by members of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms on Monday, May 7, 2018.

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 mayor of Taranto, Rinaldo Melucci said the southern port city was "ready to embrace every life in danger".

"The team is still a bit calm and we know the situation is stable but it can not run" forever, SOS Mediterranee's Laurent said.

"Starting today, Italy, too, begins to say NO to the trafficking of human beings, NO to the business of clandestine immigration", Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-migrant League party, tweeted on Sunday.

"We will not turn Italy into a huge refugee camp", he wrote. The vessel, now carrying 629 people, was ordered by the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center late on Sunday to remain 35 nautical miles from Italy and 27 nautical miles from Malta.

"Apparently raising your voice pays off", he said.


The MV Aquarius rescue ship is seen as migrants on are rescued by the SOS Mediterranee organisation during a search and rescue (SAR) operation in the Mediterranean Sea, off the Libyan Coast, September 14, 2017. All passengers were offloaded to the Aquarius to be taken to land. "The Mediterranean is the sea of all the countries that face it, and it (Malta) can't imagine that Italy will continue to face this giant phenomenon in solitude".

The number of migrants arriving in Spain has been on the rise, Benavides reports, while the number of sea arrivals in Italy "has dropped 77 percent compared to this time previous year, following controversial deals with the Libyan Coast Guard and investigations into NGO search-and-rescues".

"It is our obligation to help to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and to offer a safe port to these people", Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's office said in a statement, adding that the boat, the Aquarius, would be allowed to dock in Valencia.

However, it is now unclear whether such a move is possible as the Aquarius is obliged to obey the commands of the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC), an arm of the government-controlled Italian Coast Guard. France and Spain have previously said it's not their job either.

"We would need a resupply at sea which is not so easy to organize so we urge Italy to find a solution very soon close to our position", he told The Associated Press in Paris.

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

The new cabinet has pledged to take a stand against European Union migration policies that they say leave Italy and its Mediterranean neighbours bearing the brunt of one of the biggest migration crises in a century.

"We need a real European border police that can act if necessary even if it displeases one of the (EU) states with external borders", she said in an interview with ARD public television.

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