Italy to redirect 629 migrants to Malta, says Italian official

Humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee said there were 123 minors on board the Aquarius ship

Italy's new government assumes power at a time when nativist populist parties have growing clout in Europe and its anti-immigrant stance will no doubt be welcomed by Hungary's Viktor Orban, whose government is now trying to criminalize people working for groups that assist asylum seekers.

The ship San Giusto then assisted the Aquarius teams in a final transfer of 119 shipwrecked people from Italian merchant ship MV Jolly Vanadio to the Aquarius.

The 629 people now on board the Aquarius were rescued during the night of Saturday to Sunday, when six rescue and transfer operations were carried out in the space of nine hours, under instruction from the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (IMRCC).

At around 4:30pm on Tuesday, the Sea Watch 3 said it was heading towards a shipwreck 20 miles from Libya in which 12 migrants were killed. "Given the boat's location, it is between Italy and Malta", he added.

Despite his refusal to accept Aquarius, the Italian Coast Guard ship Diciotto, carrying 937 migrants, was expected to dock in Sicily Tuesday or Wednesday. "So as we raised the issue for the Aquarius we will do so for all other ships".

Macron's spokesperson, Benjamin Grivaux said France doesn't want to "start a precedent" that would allow some European countries to breach worldwide laws and rely on other EU member states.

Since the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean escalated three years ago, over 50,000 people have already been rescued by merchant ships, with many more rescued by military vessels and boats operated by humanitarian NGOs. "MSF calls for people's safety to come before politics".

Italy's new anti-migrant, right-wing interior minister, Matteo Salvini, is making good on a campaign pledge to close Italian ports to non-governmental organizations that pick up migrants at sea, which he has likened to taxi services for migrant smugglers.

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More than 600 people are stuck aboard the ship Aquarius, run by a French charity, which is now waiting between Malta and Italy while the two countries row over who should take responsibility.

There was, he said, a "need for Europeans.to face up, in a united and coordinated manner, to a problem that is a problem for all, and not just for Greece one year and for Italy the next".

"The priority of both the Italian and Maltese authorities should be ensuring these people receive the care they need", European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters, calling for a "swift resolution". "I'm a spokesman for the party, not the government, but I can't imagine that France will not play a role in finding a humanitarian solution for this boat", he said.

Both Italy and Malta had come under increasing worldwide pressure to allow the migrant rescue ship to dock, and they continued to argue over who was responsible.

Italy had argued that Malta, a tiny island nation that also is an European Union member, was the safest, closest port to the ship.

Malta and Italy thanked Spain for stepping up, but maintained their dispute over who was responsible.

The new Spanish administration headed by Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez agreed to allow the Aquarius to dock in its eastern port of Valencia, his office said in a statement.

Human rights groups oppose returning rescued migrants to Libya, where many are held in inhumane conditions, poorly fed and often forced to do slave labour. "This time we say no".

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