Spain: We'll Take Migrants From Drifting Ship Aquarius That Italy, Malta Rejected

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

For now, however, the Aquariusis yet to set sail for Spain.

Mayor of Naples Luigi de Magistris said on Twitter that "if a minister without a heart leaves pregnant women, children, old people, human being to die, the port of Naples is ready to welcome them". It said some of the passengers were suffering from water in their lungs as well as chemical burns caused when gasoline mixes with seawater. "The situation is stable but it can not run" forever. Malta objected, saying that it had been Italian authorities who coordinated the rescue to begin with, The Associated Press writes.

Matteo Salvini sent a letter to the Maltese authorities saying he would "be forced to close Italy's ports" if the 629 migrants saved by the French charity SOS Mediterranee weren't allowed to land at Malta's capital Valletta.

But Salvini, who channeled Trump last week by telling reporters at a refugee camp in Sicily that Tunisia "isn't exporting gentlemen, it seems more often they're exporting convicts", responded defiantly to calls for mercy, even from the Vatican.

"The Aquarius has followed the orders of the Maritime Coordination Centre and we are awaiting the designation of a safe port to disembark", explained Nicola Stalla, the coordinator of search and rescue operations of SOS Mediterranee, according to El Pais newspaper. Medical workers had said food on board the ship was going to run out by Monday night.

The episode has divided opinions in southern Italy, with anti-migrant moods apparently on the rise.

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

The 77-metre ship, the Aquarius, was effectively stranded on Monday in global waters in the Mediterranean, between Sicily and Malta, while its captain tried to find a secure port.

Italy is the main entry for migrants crossing from North Africa to Europe.

Under the global law, people rescued in the sea should be brought to the closest and safest port for assistance.

Today's decision of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of Spain to exceptionally allow a rescue ship, Aquarius, to dock in his country is courageous and welcome.

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The country refuses to take in migrants because of its small size. Some 400 of the migrants were rescued by the Italian Navy, the Italian coastguard and merchant vessels before being transferred to the Aquarius.

As the rhetoric intensified, the Aquarius remained on standby in the Mediterranean Sea with its 629 passengers, including 123 unaccompanied minors.

But after Italy's new far-right interior minister said it couldn't dock, and then Malta said the migrants were Italy's responsibility since Italy's coast guard oversaw the rescue, the ship was running out of provisions.

"When the boat broke, a man sank in front of the eyes of the rescuers, who managed to catch him and revive him once out of the water".

"All the survivors are exhausted and dehydrated because they spent many hours adrift in these boats", he said.

The Sea Watch still did not have any migrants on board, spokesman Ruben Neugebauer said.

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Mr Salvini is being seen as making good on "get-tough" anti-immigration electoral promises by banning the boat Aquarius in a move which has seismic implications for the European Union and its immigration policy.

Last week, Salvini said Rome should increase its deportations of migrants.

Should Malta take in these migrants?

But with 3,116 deaths in 2017, the Mediterranean remained the deadliest migrant route in the world previous year, according to the IOM. While the details of that agreement were not made public, Salvini told Russians at the time that his goal was to work "so that Italy has real parliamentary elections, just as open as in your country". "This time we say no".

Given that Italy's decision to close their ports was the first strong-man move from anti-immigration Home Affairs Minister and Leader of the League (LEGA), one of the two parties of the ruling coalition, and the murky waters surrounding global obligations, it would appear that the stalemate may continue.

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