Italy Denies Permission for Migrant Rescue Vessel to Dock

Map showing Malta's SAR region, the migrant's rescue location, Lampedusa and Malta relative to the Aquarius path and location at 4.51pm on Sunday

Malta has always refused large numbers of migrants to dock at its ports, saying it already accepts more refugees per capita than Italy.

Conte said Sunday that Rome had sent two patrol ships with doctors on board "ready to intervene and ensure the health of anyone on board the Aquarius who might have the need".

"Ships belonging to foreign organisations and flying foreign flags can not dictate Italy's immigration policy", said Salvini, who is also head of the anti-immigrant League.

Local media have been suggesting that by instructing Acquarius to stand by its current position in deep waters, new Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who had been criticising NGOs for carrying out the role of taxis for migrants, has started implementing anti-migrant policies. Salvini had earlier issued a joint statement with Italian Transportation Minister Danilo Toninelli of the 5-Star Movement, saying Malta "cannot continue to look the other way when it comes to respecting precise global conventions on the protection of human life".

They have been waiting more than three nights for somewhere safe to go after being rescued at sea. "Italy is done bowing its head and obeying".

Migrants on a rubber boat are rescued by the SOS Mediterranee organisation during a search and rescue operation with the MV Aquarius rescue ship (background) in the Mediterranean Sea, September 14, 2017.

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

Spain has accepted a rescue ship carrying 629 migrants which had been turned away by the new Italian government, avoiding a humanitarian crisis and diffusing a political stand-off between two European Union countries.

The ship called Aquarius rescued around 230 migrants on Saturday and more than 400 were transferred to the ship by Italian military and merchant ships in the area.

Speaking during a visit to earthquake-hit towns in central Italy, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte thanked Spain. On Sunday, Italy refused the Aquarius permission to enter a port of refuge to offload the migrants.

Malta said the rescue operations happened in worldwide waters off Libya and were coordinated by Italy.

Instead they were brutally rejected.

SOS Mediterranee insisted it would continue its rescue activities once the Aquarius had returned from Spain.

More than 600,000 migrants have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years.

"The island can not continue looking the other way when it comes to respecting global conventions", said the statement, which was signed by Salvini and Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, who is nominally in charge of the ports.

The Aquarius picked up the migrants from inflatable boats and rafts off the coast of Libya at the weekend, and the United Nations refugee agency said on Monday it was running out of provisions.

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