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Spain Takes on Migrant Ship Rejected by Italy, Malta

Spain Takes on Migrant Ship Rejected by Italy, Malta

Italy's far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who seems ready to vie even with his hero Donald Trump in cruelty toward the most vulnerable, declared victory on Monday in his campaign to defy worldwide law by refusing to accept more than 600 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean this weekend.

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".

Migrants prepare to board the rescue ship Aquarius in the Mediterranean Sea, June 11, 2018.

Drama over Salvini's closed ports policy intensified Monday morning as a second migrant ship bound for Italy and presently in Libyan waters, having collected its human cargo, was also blocked by the government.

By not letting migrants in, Mr Salvini is trying to avoid Italy to take upon itself this burden. "France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons", Salvini wrote on Facebook.

The Commission says the legal circumstances dictating who should accept the migrants is "anything but clear", however Brussels says both parties are obliged to cooperate to resolve the matter.

Italy's hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini, in a joint statement with Danilo Toninelli, minister in charge of the Italian coastguard, insisted that Malta "cannot continue to look the other way when it comes to respecting precise worldwide conventions on the protection of human life". UNHCR also pointed to "key treaties" stating that a nation which has responsibility for an area in which a search-and-rescue operation takes place is required to "exercise primary responsibility" for coordinating the migrants' safe disembarkation.

SOS Mediterranee spokeswoman Mathilde Auvillain said the ship was "heading north following instructions received after the rescues and transfers" on Saturday night.

"The people we saved yesterday were in a hard condition, at least 50 were at risk of drowning". However, Malta's Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security issued a statement saying the country is not responsible for the rescue effort coordinated by the Aquarius. In a statement it said the Aquarius took on the migrants in worldwide waters off Libya and rescue operations were coordinated by Italy.

Spain has agreed to take 629 migrants, including more than 100 children, drifting in the Mediterranean.

FILE - The League party leader, Matteo Salvini, meets reporters in Milan, Italy, May 19, 2018. According to Flavio di Giacomo, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, an additional 790 migrants were rescued Sunday by the Italian Coast Guard.

"Several (migrants) need medical assistance, which requires a rapid solution", Doctors without Borders, which runs a medical clinic on the Aquarius, said in a statement. They had been at sea for up to 30 hours before being rescued by the Aquarius.

But the Spanish ports may be too far away for the overburdened Aquarius.

The island nation has progressively reduced the number of migrants it has taken in over the past decade, from a high of 2,775 in 2008 to just 23 previous year, according to UN statistics. "We're closing the ports".

Migrants on April 23 watch the Sicilian coast from the Aquarius vessel as they arrive in Trapani, Italy.

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