Migrants Remain at Sea as Italy-Malta Standoff Escalates

Italy turns away a rescue boat carrying 600 migrants including 123 children and seven pregnant women

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The United Nations called on the countries to resolve the issue, describing it as an "urgent humanitarian imperative".

"People are in distress, are running out of provisions and need help quickly".

However, journalists aboard the Aquarius are now reporting that the organisers of the rescue mission, from the NGOs SOS Méditerranée and Medecins Sans Frontieres, have decided travelling to Valencia would be too risky.

The EU and the bloc's biggest member state Germany made similar pleas.

A spokesman for the Maltese government told AFP they "have not received communication from Salvini so far", but that "Malta was neither the coordinating nor the competent authority" in the rescue.

At the same time, the new Italian government saw revolt among their own ranks as several mayors from the parties now out of power criticized them for the decision.

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Far-right League leader Matteo Salvini campaigned on a pledge to crack down on the flow of migrants into the country.

The head of the anti-immigrant party, the League, Salvini has positioned himself as the strongman in the unlikely coalition government recently formed with the ideologically fungible Five Star Movement.

Salvini's critics, however, weren't as keen as they accused the new Interior Minister of lack of empathy and "racism" in a volley of comments. "Italy is done bending over backwards and obeying, this time THERE IS SOMEONE WHO SAYS NO", he wrote on Twitter followed by the hashtag #closethedoors.

Muscat said he told Conte "that Malta is acting in full conformity with its worldwide obligations".

This undated photo released by French NGO SOS Mediterranee on Monday and posted on its Twitter account shows migrants aboard SOS 'The Aquarius'and MSF (Doctors Without Borders) NGOs in the Mediterranean Sea.

As such Malta will not take the said vessel in its ports. The vessel with 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women on board is stranded in the Mediterranean Sea.

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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. I would welcome opportunity to discuss with concerned governments arrangements for search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean and to avoid any repetition of the situation in which the Aquarius found itself. "We are nonetheless prepared to take care of the rescued people until we are".

The country refuses to take in migrants because of its small size.

Italy is the main entry for migrants crossing from North Africa to Europe.

Operation Themis, which replaced Operation Triton was put in effect earlier this year, meaning that Italy was no longer obliged to take all migrants rescued from the Mediterranean Sea.

But the political mood in Italy has changed, with resentment growing among voters toward both migrants and the European Union.

But no matter the goodwill Sánchez receives, analysts and migration experts said Spanish ports don't represent a sustainable alternative for vessels rescuing migrants stranded in the Mediterranean, given the distance those boats would need to travel, as well as existing pressures in Spain. In a video, she said: "People are slowly getting up and getting ready for their first meal and we are yet to learn which port they are going to be using to disembark".

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