Migrants remain at sea as Italy-Malta standoff intensifies


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

"Salvini is violating the global law".

Moments before releasing this statement, Valencia's president Ximo Puig said Spain had requested to the United Nations that the ship land in Valencia.

Earlier in the day UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, had previously appealed to the governments of Malta and Italy to allow the immediate disembarkation of the hundreds of people now aboard the rescue ship Aquarius, which is now stranded in worldwide waters.

In defiance of Salvini, the mayor of Palermo, said he would allow the boat to dock in the Sicilian capital on Sunday night, however a journalist on board tweeted to say the boat had not moved since Sunday night. "He has once again shown that we are under an extreme far-right government" he said, reports The Guardian.

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In a statement it said the Aquarius took on the migrants in global waters off Libya and rescue operations were coordinated by Italy.

The UNHCR urged the two countries to put aside their differences and bring the migrants to land, warning they were running out of provisions. The group said it "urgently requests a swift resolution and a designated port of safety".

Earlier on Sunday, the charity SOS Mediterranee on Twitter that its rescue ship, The Aquarius, had taken on board 629 refugees and migrants, including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and seven pregnant women.

"We need a real European border police that can act if necessary even if it displeases one of the (EU) states with external borders", she said in an interview with ARD public television.

However, Italian officials say 13,500 migrants have been registered so far this year. The Maltese government has said that the mission was coordinated by the rescue coordination centre in Rome and that Malta was neither the coordinating authority nor the country with competence on the case.

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They explained that Valletta had no responsibility over the people aboard of Aquarius as they had been saved by Italian Navy in Libyan waters.

Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas also told a news conference the priority needed to remain the people on board.

Speaking to news channel Sky TG24, Aquarius crew member Alessandro Porro said that they were north of Malta and had "received no communications from the Maltese authorities".

And in a hard-hitting statement, the president of the European Socialists, Sergei Stanishev described the Italian government's actions as "disgusting".

Italy's new populist government will refuse to let a humanitarian boat carrying more than 600 refugees and migrants dock at any of its ports and has asked the tiny Mediterranean country of Malta to open its doors to the vessel, according to media reports.

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"Nevertheless I am very anxious for the direction taken by Italian authorities". "Italy is done bowing its head and obeying".