Migrant boat left adrift on EU's choppy waters

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption On a visit to Sicily Matteo Salvini said Italy must increase its deportations of migrants

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption On a visit to Sicily Matteo Salvini said Italy must increase its deportations of migrants

Italy and Malta refused to let the ship dock. On Monday afternoon, Spain offered to take the ship.

"Rome is that rescued people will later be transferred on Italian ships before heading together to" the eastern Spanish port of Valencia, the charity said on Twitter. The crisis came after Italy's new right-wing interior minister made good on a pledge to close the country's ports to non-governmental organisations that pick up migrants at sea.

"Italy is done bowing its head and obeying", Salvini tweeted on Mondy. "This time there's someone saying no".

Italy has taken in more than 640,000 mainly African migrants over the past five years. Many of them are from Africa. The arrivals, however, fell sharply previous year.

Local media have been suggesting that by instructing Acquarius to stand by its current position in deep waters, new Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who had been criticising NGOs for carrying out the role of taxis for migrants, has started implementing anti-migrant policies.

The episode, coming a week after the installation of Italy's new populist government, has heightened tensions within the European Union over migration. He reiterated that promise in Sicily immediately after the government was formed.

The mayor of Madrid Manuela Carmena said the capital could take in "20 families up to a maximum of 100 people". The leader of the far-right Lega also hit back at both France and Spain, after both countries criticised Italy's rejection of the Aquarius.

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

"That's why we ask the government in Valletta to take in the Aquarius in order to offer first aid to the migrants on board".

The number of migrants arriving in Spain has been on the rise, Benavides reports, while the number of sea arrivals in Italy "has dropped 77 percent compared to this time previous year, following controversial deals with the Libyan Coast Guard and investigations into NGO search-and-rescues". That agreement is thought to have involved payments to certain Libyan authorities and strongmen.

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"We still don't know when we are leaving, and we still have 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) to cross with the rescued people, some of whom are in a critical condition", Beau said.

It will be hard, perhaps impossible, for Mr. Salvini to prevent the ship from mooring in Italy if passengers' lives become endangered.

While Spain's announcement demonstrates humanitarian and moral leadership, the Italian government's actions are a clear reminder of the ways in which political hostility towards refugees and migrants puts lives at risk.

The Aquarius ship picked up the migrants, including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and seven pregnant women, from inflatable boats off the coast of Libya at the weekend.

"The better option would be to disembark the rescued people in the nearest port after which they can be transferred to [Spain] or other safe countries for further care & legal processing".

Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which is operating the Aquarius alongside SOS Mediterranne, urged a rethink. "We need to have an idea of what port to go to, something that up to now we haven't had", Aquarius crew member Alessandro Porro told news channel Sky TG24 on Sunday.

"The prime minister has given instructions for Spain to honor global commitments on humanitarian crises and announced that the country will receive the ship Aquarius", his office said in a statement.

The Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez said he would give the ship "safe harbour" and that he wanted to help avoid a humanitarian emergency.

Cochetel noted Monday that those on board are running out of provisions and insisted that issues of responsibility "should be looked at later".

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