Migrants Stranded at Sea Amid Standoff Between Italy and Malta

Migrants Stranded at Sea Amid Standoff Between Italy and Malta

Despite the claim by Mayor Orlando that the government stands in opposition to global law by closing the ports to migrant smuggling operations, a distinguished expert on worldwide maritime law Admiral Paolo Caffio has given his verdict, stating that not only is it legal, but there is also precedent, reports Il Giornale.

Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat said: "The Italian government is breaching global rules and, with its attitude, is risking to create a situation that would be unsafe to everyone".

But Muscat, "while comprehending the situation", rebuffed him, Conte said in a Facebook post late Sunday.

Salvini, leader of the far-right League, said Malta should let the Aquarius dock but he was rejected. 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.

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.

The ship, with 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and 7 pregnant women aboard, is waiting in worldwide waters between Italy and Malta. "The Mediterranean is the sea of all the countries that face it, and it (Malta) can't imagine that Italy will continue to face this giant phenomenon in solitude".

Right-wing politicians have accused charity boats operating off the coast of Libya of operating as "taxis" for migrants.

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.


European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Monday that "the priority of both the Italian and Maltese authorities should be ensuring these people receive the care they need". SOS Mediterranee spokesman Mathilde Auvillain said the ship was "heading north following instructions received after the rescues and transfers" on Saturday night.

Salvini said he is considering action against organisations rescuing migrants at sea. It added that the Aquarius "is still waiting for definitive instructions regarding the port of safety". "Still no news from Italian authorities".

EU rules mean migrants must apply for asylum in the European country where they first arrive, putting pressure on Italy and Greece, the entry points for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia since 2015.

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.

"To politely raise one's voice pays off; it's something Italy hasn't done for many years", Salvini, who in his role as interior minister is leading the crackdown on immigration, said at a news conference. The cause of death was yet to be determined.

Italy has seen some 13,706 sea arrivals so far in 2018, a significant decrease from recent years.

However, the small nation declined, arguing that it has no obligation to receive the migrants.

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