Malta refuses to accept vessel carrying 629 migrants after Italy’s rejection

Spain accepts 629 stranded migrants after Italy and Malta refused them

Spain accepts 629 stranded migrants after Italy and Malta refused them

Malta said the rescue operations took place in worldwide waters off Libya and were coordinated by Italy. "This could compromise all the work and cooperation between us over the past few years".

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.

Aid group SOS Mediterraneee said the passengers on its ship, the Aquarius, included 400 people who were picked up by the Italian navy, that country's coast guard and private cargo ships and transferred.

Salvini, also deputy prime minister, has continued with his anti-migrant rhetoric since taking charge of the interior ministry, asking on Friday for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to defend Italy, which he says is "under attack from the south". Interior Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted Sunday that from now on, "Italy, too, begins to say NO to the trafficking of human beings". All passengers were offloaded to the Aquarius to be taken to land. The Aquarius, a humanitarian ship run by the NGO SOS Mediterranean and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said it saved 946 people, including 200 unaccompanied minors rescued after being found drifting on nine wooden and rubber boats. "But Italy has stopped bending its head and obeying".

"Saving lives at sea is a duty, but transforming Italy into an enormous refugee camp is not", Salvini said on Facebook on Monday.

Malta is accusing Italy of violating worldwide norms by instructing a migrant rescue ship with 629 people aboard to stay at sea while a diplomatic standoff plays out over where it can dock.

In a tweet on the current standoff between Malta and Italy over the fate of 629 migrants blocked on a humanitarian ship, Metsola described the standoff as a "sad battle of populists" between Malta's Prime Minister and Italian Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini. The Rome-based rescue coordination center gave the instructions.

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

One Aquarius crew member, Alessandro Porro, told Italian news channel Sky TG24 that they desperately needed to know which port to go to. We have always welcomed rescue boats and vessels who saved lives at sea.

More than 600,000 migrants and refugees have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years. Right-wing politicians have accused charity boats operating off the coast of Libya of operating as "taxis" for migrants.

Libya was plunged into chaos following a 2011 uprising.

The summer of 2016 saw a surge in mass drownings in the Mediterranean as Europe's worst migration crisis since World War II peaked with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere.

The charity say they have enough supplies to feed the migrants at least for another day.

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