Row over ship with 600 migrants aboard adrift off Italy

Italy shuts ports to rescue ship carrying 629 migrants

Italy's new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has refused permission for a rescue vessel to drop off 629 migrants picked up off the Libya's coast saying ports were closed to migrants from that country, the Guardian reported.

A little more than a week ago, Italy's new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, told a crowd that "Italy and Sicily can not be Europe's refugee camp" and "the good times for illegals are over", Deutsche Welle reports.

The aid group SOS Mediterranee's ship plucked 229 migrants from the sea or from flimsy dinghies in the Mediterranean on Saturday.

Charity boats operating off the Libyan coast have played an increasingly important role in rescuing migrants, who often put to sea in flimsy inflatable boats not designed for the open ocean.

SOS Mediterranee spokesperson Mathilde Auvillain said the Aquarius had received orders to head north after a series of sea rescues and was now awaiting "definitive instructions". "The situation is stable but it can not run" forever.

"People are in distress, are running out of provisions and need help quickly", said Vincent Cochetel, special envoy for the central Mediterranean for the UN Refugee Agency. It said some passengers had seawater in their lungs as well as chemical burns caused when gasoline mixes with seawater.

Could the migrants have gone to Malta?

The mayors of both Valencia and Barcelona had already offered to let the boat in at their ports.

Italy's interior ministry were unable to confirm the existence of the letter and said officials were still trying to confirm the existence of the letter. The trip would take four to five days, and with so many people aboard the boat and bad weather making seafaring conditions hard, going to Valencia would be "a insane idea". "The details of this agreement are not known and we don't know if Salvini will inherit that deal", he said.

"We will not turn Italy into a huge refugee camp", he wrote. "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 news channel Sky TG24 on Sunday.

His co-deputy premier, Luigi Di Maio, claimed that Monday was a turning point in Europe's divisive debate over immigration.

The government's critics say its plan to repatriate migrants is unworkable and risks fomenting racism and politicising a humanitarian issue.

Migrants prepare to board the rescue ship Aquarius in the Mediterranean Sea, June 11, 2018.

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.

Last week, Salvini said Rome should increase its deportations of migrants.

Italy's position, Muscat said, risks "creating a unsafe situation for all those involved".

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who came into office just over a week ago, said: "It is our duty to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a secure port for these people". France and Spain have previously said it's not their job either.

The Maltese prime minister also expressed concern over the Italian authorities' directions given to the Acquarius vessel, adding that such policies contradicted global norms, and might lead to unsafe developments.

As the rhetoric intensified, the Aquarius remained on standby in the Mediterranean Sea with its 629 passengers.

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. He announced plans to cut the budget for reception centers for asylum seekers and, in an unnerving call-and-response with the excited crowd, said that sending all irregular migrants back home was a top priority.

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.

"Thank you, Lord", the women sang.

Spanish journalists on board the rescue vessel have reported the increasingly desperate plight of the migrants over the past 24 hours.

The country refuses to take in migrants because of its small size. 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".

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