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Refugee Crisis: Spain offers ship bearth as Italy, Malta refuse

Italy shuts ports to rescue ship carrying 629 migrants

Italy's far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who seems ready to vie even with his hero Donald Trump in cruelty toward the most vulnerable, declared victory on Monday in his campaign to defy global law by refusing to accept more than 600 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean this weekend. He noted that other European countries are very much involved in migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean - including a German aid group now off the coast Libya - but no country is stepping up to actually take in the migrants once they are plucked from boats or the sea.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Italy's refusal to allow the Aquarius ship to dock at an Italian port risks "creating a risky situation for all those involved".

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.

It suggested that the hundreds on board "are running out of provisions".

Italy argued that Malta should accept the Aquarius because Malta was the safest, closest port to the ship.

It's not yet clear what Salvini and the new government have in mind, but it's worth remembering that the League's Roberto Maroni was interior minister in 2009 when Italy implemented its nefarious policy of literally pushing boats back to Libya.

"We will not turn Italy into a huge refugee camp", he wrote.

"Our objective is the disembarkation in a port of safety of the 629 people now on board the Aquarius - some we rescued yesterday night in hard conditions", she was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Although Spain offered safe harbour to the boat and the 629 migrants on board, the episode has raised questions about a country's legal obligations towards those rescued at sea.

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There are no showers or sinks for migrants on the Aquarius and rescue workers use a disinfectant spray on people's hands before they eat.

Francesco Galietti, CEO of Policy Sonar, a Rome political consultancy and research firm, said that Mr. Salvini's decision to stop the Aquarius from reaching an Italian port was a calculated move to highlight Italy's migrant plight.

Salvini took this a chance to remind that other European countries have been defending their borders without much of a fuss.

"Italy is done bowing its head and obeying", Salvini tweeted on Mondy. "We have never been a situation before where we have been denied a right to a port of safety", he said Monday via a WhatsApp message.

"Malta is neither the competent nor the coordinating authority in this case".

The reason Italy refused to accept the migrants despite the fact the majority of them were rescued by the Italian authorities is a political one, Dr Wolff added.

"The duty of a democratic government is not to look away" in a humanitarian crisis, said Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, who also offered her port as a potential solution to the standoff. Political analysts said the rise of the populist movement in Italy was partly fuelled by the surge of migrant arrivals in Italy and their lack of resettlement elsewhere in the EU.

Numerous migrants were rescued in waters controlled by Libya, a common route for undocumented migrants attempting to enter Europe from sub-Saharan Africa, the BBC reported.

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