Maltese Army Ferries Out Food And Water To Stranded Migrants

"France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons".

Spain offered Monday to take in a rescue ship that is drifting in the Mediterranean sea with 629 migrants on board after Italy and Malta refused to let it dock.

Spain unexpectedly offered on Monday to take in the group of mainly sub-Saharan Africans, who were picked up off the Libyan coast over the weekend.

Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat also refused to take in the Aquarius ship of the humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee.

With the weather worsening and concerns growing for the welfare of the most vulnerable migrants aboard the Aquarius, the Spanish Government has offered to receive the ship, although it will another three to four days sailing to reach port.

The convoy set sail at around 9:00 pm local time, according to a spokeswoman for the Franco-German charity SOS Mediterranne which is operating the Aquarius.

The country has been the main point of entry in Europe for migrants and refugees arriving from Africa in recent years, with 700,000 crossing the Mediterranean since 2013, often from war-wracked Libya.

At around 4:30pm on Tuesday, the Sea Watch 3 said it was heading towards a shipwreck 20 miles from Libya in which 12 migrants were killed.

"Denying disembarkation to desperate people rescued at sea can not be considered as a victory: it is the wrong response to the lack of responsibility and burden sharing between member states", said Aloys Vimard, MSF's project coordinator on board Aquarius.

Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat accused Italy of violating worldwide norms governing sea rescues and said the government's stance risked "creating a unsafe situation for all those involved". Efforts by Rome to persuade other EU states to accept some of the newcomers and share the cost of their care has largely fallen on deaf ears, heightening both anti-European and anti-migrant sentiment in the Italy.

Following Italy's decision, Malta also said it would not accept the ship either so it remained in standby between the two countries for days. In practical terms, no ships of this type will be able to land without cooperation of the Italian coastguard, which is under the direct command of the Italian government.

Late Monday afternoon, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called a cabinet meeting this evening to discuss the issue.

"Italy can not accept hypocritical lessons from countries that have preferred to look the other way on immigration", the new populist government said in statement initially reported by Italian media and then confirmed by government representatives to AFP. During the Italian general election this March, the League party and its allies campaigned on a nationalist, anti-immigration platform and won a plurality of seats in Italy's legislature.

"It was so depressing to hear for years that it is impossible to protect maritime borders", Orban told reporters in Budapest.

"Willpower has returned to Italy".

The closing of Italy's ports to Aquarius represented the first test of the populist government's rhetoric, and Italy stood firm, despite outcry from the European Union and the United Nations.

"It says that the country responsible for operations in that area has primary responsibility for taking them from the ship".

The prolonged trip will worsen the already critical conditions of some of those on board, they said. "We need to have an idea of what port to go to, something that up to now we haven't had", Aquarius crew member Alessandro Porro told Sky TG24 on Sunday.

Euronews' Paris correspondent Anelise Borges was on board the Aquarius ship, operated by Doctors without Borders and SOS Mediterranee.

"After the refusal of Malta to allow the people aboard the Aquarius to disembark there, we received an unprecedented gesture of solidarity from Spain".

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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