Published: Fri, June 15, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Macron blasts Italy's 'irresponsibility' over migrant ship

Macron blasts Italy's 'irresponsibility' over migrant ship

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

Oltra says the timing will depend on when they depart, the weather and conditions at sea.

Spain has offered to take in a rescue ship carrying more than 600 migrants after Italy and Malta refused.

The U.N. refugee agency rejects the argument that boats run by private organizations should stop making such rescues, as they are simply providing an incentive for migrants to make perilous overseas journeys.

Regarding the planned voyage to Spain, Vimad, who is on board the ship, told Euronews: "This is not what we wish, it's overcrowded. people are weak, tired, exhausted".

"A man threatened to throw himself off the boat, saying he didn't want to go back to Libya, for some people the prospect of going back was really really scary".

Italy's hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini insisted that Malta "cannot continue to look the other way when it comes to respecting precise worldwide conventions on the protection of human life".

"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.

Mr Salvini says he is considering action against organisations rescuing migrants at sea.

A controversial deal between Italy's former government and authorities in Libya has led to a drop in overall arrivals since last summer.

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Muscat said on Sunday he had told Conte his country would not take the ship.

Spain tried to defuse the situation by giving instructions for the boat to dock in Valencia to "avoid a humanitarian disaster" and its crew received official entry approval late on Monday.

The government was responding to French President Emmanuel Macron accusation of "irresponsibility" over Italy's handling of the crisis.

The standoff is actually the third in recent weeks, after the outgoing government of Premier Paolo Gentiloni refused to let humanitarian aid groups dock in Italian ports until the ships' flag nations had formally requested permission.

Sophie Beau, head of French charity SOS Mediterranee, which charters the vessel, said its missions will continue "as long as there are people drowning in the Mediterranean, as long as we have the resources, and as long as we are able to act and we are not kicked out of the area".

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was also appreciative of Spain's move though he said migrants were an EU-wide matter.

But he warned: "I fear a major tragedy if states start refusing to accept rescued migrants as was threatened".

European Union law requires asylum seekers register in the first safe country they reach.

That has put 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.

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