Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Italy to Ferry Migrants It Rejected to Spain

Italy to Ferry Migrants It Rejected to Spain

It will take the Aquarius about 10 days to make the trip to Spain and back, leaving the Dutch-flagged Sea Watch 3 alone off the coast of Libya - a staging ground for people smugglers - looking out for migrant boats in distress.

Meanwhile, the situation with 'Aquarius' was resolved after Spain chose to step in following the United Nations refugee agency call to promptly find a way to take the ship full of people in. The ship San Giusto then assisted the Aquarius teams in a final transfer of 119 shipwrecked people from Italian merchant ship MV Jolly Vanadio to the Aquarius.

Josep Borrell, Spain's new foreign minister, said the decision to accept the migrants will help push European Union leaders to address migration at a summit later this month.

The new Spanish foreign minister said the decision to offer a docking port in the eastern city of Valencia had been a "personal and direct" move by the country's new prime minister, the Socialist Pedro Sanchez.

In the case of the Aquarius, which is operated by SOS Méditerranée, UNHCR said that the dwindling provisions on board created "an urgent humanitarian imperative" for Italy and Malta to allow the boat to dock.

The standoff marked the first inevitable clash over migrant rescues with League leader Salvini, now running Italy's interior ministry.

Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini - who is also Deputy Prime Minister - has promised to deport hundreds of thousands of economic migrants, warning that Italy would not be "Europe's refugee camp".

Since Italy's navy had coordinated the initial rescue effort, and even transferred some of the migrants its own navy had saved to the rescue ship staffed by volunteer aid workers, it was obliged by worldwide law to ensure their safety.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said his country had "asked for a gesture of solidarity from Europe and this gesture has been made".

"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. His tweet concluded with the hashtag #chiudiamoiporti - which means "we're closing the ports" in Italian.

"By closing their ports, Italy and Malta have not only turned their backs on more than 600 desperate and vulnerable people but also on their obligations under global law", Elisa De Pieri, Amnesty International's Italy researcher, said in a statement.

Doctors Without Borders, which has staff aboard the Aquarius, tweeted a video of some of the women aboard the ship praying Monday morning and said they were unaware of the diplomatic drama being waged on land over their fate.

Calling for immediate disemarkation for the 629 people, including 11 children and seven pregnant women, MSF said the better option would be to disembark in the nearest port, after which the refugees can be transferred to Spain or other safe countries for further care and legal processing. There are also 21 patients on board who have suffered severe chemical burns after being exposed to a toxic mixture of sea water and fuel for an extended period of time.

"MSF calls for people's safety to come before politics".

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