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Italy claims victory after Spain offers to take in migrant ship
July 21 2018, 08:09 | Irvin Gilbert
Migrants on board the NGO search and rescue vessel Aquarius
Guglielmo Mangiapane Reuters
Italy's new anti-migrant, right-wing interior minister has made 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. "Italy has stopped bowing down, it's now time to say no".
Spain's prime minister, Socialist party leader Pedro Sanchez, offered to resolve the impasse by allowing the Aquarius access to the port of Valencia on Monday.
Beau told AFP a "one-off solution" had been found for the Aquarius after Spain offered to take in its passengers following refusals from the nearest countries, Italy and Malta. Efforts by Rome to persuade other EU states to accept some of the newcomers and share the cost of their care have largely fallen on deaf ears, heightening anti-European and anti-migrant sentiment in the Italy.
Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando said Salvini was "violating worldwide law which makes saving lives a priority".
The appeal by the non-governmental organisation follows that of the United Nationsrefugee agency in Italy that urged the countries involved to "rapidly find solutions to allow migrants and refugees on board the Aquarius to disembark safely and quickly".
Even as Italy worked to dispatch the charity ship, an Italian coast guard vessel with 937 migrants aboard was heading north from the Libyan coast and was expected to dock in Sicily on Wednesday.
Spain stepped in to help after Italy - which has been on the front line of the migration crisis in Europe - and Malta refused to allow the Aquarius to land despite strong pressure from the worldwide community.
Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat also refused to take in the Aquarius ship of the humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee.
"I thank Prime Minister Sanchez for taking in Aquarius after Italy broke global rules and caused a standoff", Muscat said. "This is a European issue". Conte said he would discuss the situation further with Salvini and other ministers on Monday evening.
Pictures issued by SOS Mediterranee showed hundreds of Africans huddled aboard, including a young girl wrapped in a blanket in the arms of a rescue worker.
The agency's special envoy for migrants in the Mediterranean, Vincent Cochetel, underscored that "people are in distress, are running out of provisions and need help quickly".
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.
"From the empirical evidence, the boats had been arriving whether there were or were not rescue operations in the Mediterranean or in Eastern Mediterranean or Central Mediterranean", Mahecic said.
Not everyone in Italy agreed with the government action, and the mayors of a number of southern cities, including Naples, Palermo and Messina, said they would welcome the migrants.
Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando said Salvini was "violating worldwide law which makes saving lives a priority".
"We are talking about people".
"Supplies will be received shortly from an Italian vessel on to Aquarius".
"The people we saved yesterday were in a hard condition, at least 50 were at risk of drowning". They say other European Union countries should share this burden.
Italy's position, Muscat said, risks "creating a unsafe situation for all those involved".
Hundreds of migrants stranded on a rescue vessel in the Mediterranean will be taken to Spain with the help of two Italian ships, a charity said on Tuesday, after deteriorating weather conditions sparked fears for their safety. But the new Italian government, keen to show its racism is honest, would not allow the ship to dock.