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European Union urges 'swift resolution' on stranded migrants

European Union urges 'swift resolution' on stranded migrants

Italian government officials yesterday said that Italy would refuse to let the humanitarian ship Aquarius dock at its ports and it had asked the Mediterranean island of Malta to open its doors to the vessel. The charities said the migrants were picked up in six different rescue operations and that hundreds of them had been delivered to the Aquarius by Italian navy ships that were patrolling the waters off Libya.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Facebook that Spain's offer meant Italy was "no longer alone" and now it was time to make European Union asylum rules "more fair for everybody".

The 629 rescued migrants on board the ship Aquarius, operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without borders, come from Eritrea, Ghana, Nigeria and Sudan, and include 88 women - seven of which are pregnant - 123 unaccompanied minors and 11 children.

On Sunday, Salvini said Italy was saying "no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration".

"The priority of both the Italian and Maltese authorities should be ensuring these people receive the care they need", Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a news conference.

Italy's government is led by two populist parties tied together, in part, by hostility toward migrants and a desire for a tougher stance on immigration.

"Saving lives at sea is a duty, but transforming Italy into an enormous refugee camp is not", he said on Facebook.

"Our only objective is the disembarkation in a port of safety of the people that we rescued yesterday in hard conditions", it said, adding that it "took good note" of the Italian Interior Ministry's statements.

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Italy has taken in more than 600,000 migrants from the sea since 2014, according to Reuters, with about 13,706 sea arrivals so far this year - a significant decrease from recent years. "Malta takes in nobody", he said.

"Italy has stopped bowing its head and obeying, this time THERE ARE THOSE WHO SAY NO", he tweeted Monday.

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.

But the Spanish ports may be too far away for the overburdened Aquarius.

The reason Italy refused to accept the migrants despite the fact the majority of them were rescued by the Italian authorities is a political one, Dr Wolff added. "We need to know who is arriving", a local man, Salvo Cavallaro said, "these 600 people, we don't know who they are".

Migrants are rescued by staff members of the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship run in partnership between SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres in the central Mediterranean Sea, June 9, 2018.

In the meantime some in Italy have offered to take in the migrants, with the mayor of Taranto, Rinaldo Melucci, saying that the Calabrian port city was "ready to embrace every life in danger". But Italy can not simply expel hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants without severe repression, and Italy doesn't yet have the agreements with many key countries of origin needed to facilitate returns.

Italy has long protested that sending migrants to the nearest port has distributed Europe's burden unequally, hitting Italy particularly hard.


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