Italy 'to shut ports' to boat carrying over 600 refugees

Italy shuts ports to rescue ship carrying 629 migrants

Italy shuts ports to rescue ship carrying 629 migrants

Malta has accused Italy of violating global 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.

Aid group SOS Mediterraneee said the passengers on its ship, the Aquarius, included 400 people who were picked up by the Italian navy, that country's coast guard and private cargo ships and transferred.

SOS Mediterranee confirmed that there were 629 people on board, including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and seven pregnant women after being involved in six rescue operations off the coast of Libya.

Mr Salvini says he wants to "stop the death boats". As such Malta will not take the said vessel in its ports.

"Malta takes in nobody".

Salvini pointed to Malta's unwillingness in accusing Europe as a whole of leaving Italy on its own to deal with the refugee crisis.

Tweeting on Sunday, Salvini said: "Starting today, Italy, too, begins to say NO to the trafficking of human beings, NO to the business of clandestine immigration".

"My aim is to guarantee a peaceful life for these youths in Africa and for our children in Italy", Mr Salvini said, using a Twitter hashtag which translates to, "We are shutting the ports".

Italy has denied permission for a rescue ship to drop off 629 migrants after Malta refused to open its ports.

"The Mediterranean is the sea of all the countries that face it, and it (Malta) can't imagine that Italy will continue to face this giant phenomenon (of migration) in solitude", the ministers said.

The government of Malta expressed concern that Italy is going against global rules in the way it is tackling the issue regarding stranded migrants.

In an official statement, the Maltese government said: "The rescue by NGO boat Aquarius was conducted in the Libyan Search and Rescue region and coordinated by Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) Rome".

"Malta is neither the competent nor the coordinating authority in this case".

The charity's spokesperson, Mathilde Auvillain, said the ship had received orders to head north and was now awaiting "definitive instructions".

The closest, safest port, excluding Libya, was Lampedusa, however, Italian Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini ordered all of his country's ports closed to the ship.

Despite the claim by Mayor Orlando that the government stands in opposition to worldwide law by closing the ports to migrant smuggling operations, a distinguished expert on global maritime law Admiral Paolo Caffio has given his verdict, stating that not only is it legal, but there is also precedent, reports Il Giornale.

The same day Italian authorities held the migrant rescue boat Sea-Watch 3 for 12 hours after it brought 232 people to Reggio Calabria, on the south-western tip of the mainland.

More than 600,000 migrants and refugees have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years.

One boat found Sunday was carrying four bodies along with 49 migrants.

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