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

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

'A European issue' Malta and Italy both thanked Spain for stepping up, but maintained their dispute over who was responsible. "It's primarily saying that Italy can not be left alone in dealing with so many migrants", he said in an interview.

Paris: Paris on Tuesday defended its decision not to offer safe harbour to the stranded migrant ship Aquarius after local leaders on Corsica proposed opening one of their ports to the vessel.

According to SOS Mediterranee, the journey from Maltese waters to Valencia would take at least three days. "We need to show solidarity which Italy has not shown".

"At this time the Aquarius, the biggest rescue boat in the Mediterranean, is going far from its rescue zone", she told AFP.

A French NGO's rescue ship, the Aquarius, was waiting for a port to dock at on Monday as a diplomatic standoff played out over where it should go next.

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

The refugees will be taken to Spain's Valencia port with the help of two Italian ships.

Italy's refusal at the weekend marks the first major anti-migrant move since far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini took office this month promising to crack down on illegal immigration. We will have to sit down and discuss how to prevent this from happening again.

Both Italy and fellow European Union member Malta have refused to accept the migrants who are now heading for the Spanish port of Valencia after the new socialist government in Madrid agreed to take them in.

"It is our obligation to avoid a human catastrophe and offer a safe haven to these people, fulfilling that way the obligations of global law", his government said in a statement.

"The prime minister has given instructions for Spain to honour worldwide commitments on humanitarian crises and announced that the country will receive the ship Aquarius", his office said in a statement.

On Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte asked Malta to take the African migrants aboard the Aquarius, but Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat rejected the request, arguing his country had no obligation under global law to accept them. Although there were no immediate emergencies on board, the spokesman said, there were many who needed medical care for chemical burns, hypothermia and dehydration.

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Colau has also called on the new Spanish government, now led by the Socialist party, to change migration policies set by the previous conservative administration.

With food and drink running short, their plight could last another three or four more days before they are finally able to land in Spain, said the French charity SOS Mediterranee which operates the ship.

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

The Aquarius will carry around 100 immigrants to their new destination, while the rest will be transferred to two additional vessels from Italy's Coast Guard and Navy. Malta has refused to let the boat dock as well, despite calls from the European Union and the United Nations refugee agency to do so. The ship, carrying more than 600 people, has been unable to dock. Valencia is 700 nautical miles (about 1,300 kilometres) from point between Malta and Italy where humanitarian boat is now.

He wrote: "Who pays for this sea taxis?"

The German government is calling on all involved with the fate of a migrant rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea to "do justice to their humanitarian responsibility".

The Aquarius ship at sea.

Successive Italian governments have accused their European partners of leaving the country to cope on its own with an influx of 700,000 migrants from Africa since 2013.

The group said it "urgently requests a swift resolution and a designated port of safety".

The ship, which was located in global waters between Malta and Italy, is carrying 629 people on board, with reports of the vessel only having enough food to last one day.

Mr Salvini had doubled down on his position, warning another charity ship, the Sea Watch 3, which is patrolling off the Libyan coast, that it may not be allowed to dock in Italy.

Earlier, Malta said in a statement that the Aquarius took on the passengers in waters controlled by Libya and where Italian authorities in Rome coordinate search-and-rescue operations.

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