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11 June 2018, 03:25 | Darnell Patrick
Italy turns away ship carrying over 600 migrants
Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, who is nominally in charge of the ports, said: "Malta can not continue looking the other way when it comes to respecting global conventions". "This could compromise all the work and cooperation between us over the past few years".
In a statement late Sunday after speaking with his Italian counterpart, Mr Muscat refused to let the ship dock in a Maltese port, but said Malta would conduct emergency medical evacuations if necessary.
Malta has accused Italy of violating worldwide norms by instructing a migrant rescue ship with 629 people aboard to stay at sea while a diplomatic standoff plays out over where it can dock.
The charity said the group of mainly sub-Saharan Africans were picked up in six different rescue operations off the coast of Libya and included hundreds who were plucked from the sea by Italian naval units and then transferred to The Aquarius.
On Sunday, Salvini said Italy was saying "no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration".
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. The Aquarius, a humanitarian ship run by the NGO SOS Mediterranean and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said it saved 946 people, including 200 unaccompanied minors rescued after being found drifting on nine wooden and rubber boats. "Italy has stopped bowing its head and obeying, this time THERE IS SOMEONE WHO SAYS NO. #chiudiamoiporti (#weareclosingtheports)", Salvini wrote on Twitter, as quoted by the Ansa news agency.
Under the global law, people rescued in the sea should be brought to the closest and safest port for assistance.
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Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Italy's refusal to allow the Aquarius ship to dock at an Italian port risks "creating a unsafe situation for all those involved".
Salvini's comments came after another spat with Malta following its reported refusal to come to the aid of another rescue ship Seefuchs, which was stranded with 126 migrants on board due to violent seas until it was allowed to dock in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo on Saturday.
Sea-Watch said police also questioned some of the rescued migrants who, after being processed by the authorities, are likely to end up in reception centres.
One Aquarius crew member, Alessandro Porro, told Italian news channel Sky TG24 that they desperately needed to know which port to go to.
The previous Italian government also threatened to close the country's ports last July during last summer's spate of migrant movements across the Mediterranean.
Italy is the main entry for migrants crossing from North Africa to Europe.
Mr Salvini says he is considering action against organisations rescuing migrants at sea.
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