Hundreds of migrants were stranded at sea after Italy refused to allow the migrant ship to enter any of its ports and Malta refused to accept them as well.
As a result, the rescue ship, Aquarius, carrying 629 migrants remained at sea with nowhere to go. French charity SOS Mediterranee said on Twitter it had saved the migrants and had taken on board hundreds of people that were pulled from the sea, including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and seven pregnant women.
The charity added 400 migrants had been rescued by Italian naval units and then were transferred to the rescue ship. The migrants mainly included sub-Saharan people who were picked up in six different rescue operations off the coast of Libya.
“Our objective is the disembarkation in a port of safety of the 629 people now on board the Aquarius - some we rescued yesterday night in difficult conditions,” said the organization.
Unfortunately, that seems like a difficult task given the current situation.
Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, wrote a letter to the Maltese authorities and asked the island country to open its doors for the humanitarian ship.
He also posted a tweet that further explained his agenda.
“Starting today, Italy, too, begins to say NO to the trafficking of human beings, NO to the business of clandestine immigration,” he wrote.
The interior minister also said that “Italy will no longer be ‘Europe’s refugee camp.’”
However, Malta refused the request and said it had nothing to do with the rescue operation.
“Malta is neither the competent nor the coordinating authority in this case. Malta will observe prevailing laws,” said a government statement.
Salvini is also head of the far-right League and with his recent statements he is making good on his campaign promises to halt the flow of migrants into the country.
More than 600,000 migrants have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years. However, in recent months, the numbers have dropped dramatically. According to the United Nations, at least 500 people have died so far in 2018 trying to cross the central Mediterranean.
Spotlight, Banner: Reuters, Guglielmo Mangiapane