France asks Italy to reconsider position on migrant ship

Evarado Alatorre
Junio 13, 2018

Italy's far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who seems ready to vie even with his hero Donald Trump in cruelty toward the most vulnerable, declared victory on Monday in his campaign to defy global law by refusing to accept more than 600 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean this weekend.

Eric Ciotti, a prominent hard-right minister from the Opposition Republicans party, also called on the government to take a tough line on the Aquarius. All three ships would sail to Valencia, Spain, together and disembark all the rescued people there.

The Mediterranean is the sea of all the countries that face it.

Among those on board the Aquarius are seven pregnant women, 11 young children and 123 unaccompanied minors.

The government also said Italy had "never abandoned" the migrants as two patrol boats had accompanied the ship from the start.

Malta had food and water ferried Monday to the Aquarius, which was running out of supplies.

But UNHCR said letting a boat dock did not mean a country would have to take long-term responsibility for those on board.

A doctor aboard the ship, David Beversluis, said one passenger had to be revived after he was rescued. Many are suffering from fuel burns as a result, and most are dehydrated.

Even as the Aquarius' crew grappled with the logistics, Italy vowed to block other rescue boats, including the Dutch-flagged Sea-Watch 3, another aid group's boat.

Spain's maritime rescue service says it has saved 231 migrants trying the cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.

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The issue of migration to Europe and rescues at sea has become a major issue in Italy with the new government in Rome refusing to allow an NGO ship to bring rescued migrants to Italy on Sunday. "And, so, as we have raised the problem for the Aquarius, we'll do it for all the other boats".

Italy has refused to grant access to another migrant rescue ship right after denying entry to nearly 630 migrants on board the rescue vessel Acquarius, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said.

The migrants were rescued in six separate night-time operations in the central Mediterranean on Saturday.

Also on the shelf was a copy of a book about the cooperation agreement with Putin's United Russia party that Salvini signed in Moscow a year ago on behalf of his own far-right party.

Spain's offer is "important news, since it signals a turning point", Di Maio said. They were transferred to the Aquarius on Saturday before the standoff developed.

However the one-off fix was not adequate, the charity said, calling on European leaders to step up and find shared solutions to support countries on the frontline, such as Italy.

French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the decision to block the Aquarius, operated by the Franco-German charity SOS Mediterranne, saying worldwide law obligated Italy to take in the migrants.

Josep Borrell, Spain's new foreign minister, said the decision to accept the migrants will help push European Union leaders to address migration at a summit later this month. "We need to have an idea of what port to go to, something that up to now we haven't had".

UNHCR also pointed to "key treaties" stating that a nation which has responsibility for an area in which a search-and-rescue operation takes place is required to "exercise primary responsibility" for coordinating the migrants' safe disembarkation.

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