Safety concerns prevent Aquarius migrant rescue ship going to Spain


ROME-Italy's new populist government has denied permission to dock to an aid-group boat ferrying hundreds of migrants rescued off the coast of Libya, following through on a campaign pledge to halt mass migration to Italy and leaving the vessel stranded.

More than 600,000 mostly African migrants have reached Italy by boat from Libya in the past five years.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says the rescue ship can dock in Valencia on Monday afternoon.

The European Union and the United Nations refugee agency had called for a swift end to a political standoff that left 629 migrants on the rescue ship Aquarius drifting at sea.

"The team is still a bit calm and we know the situation is stable but it can not run" forever, SOS Mediterranee's Laurent said.

Late Monday, Malta sent a motorboat with food and water to resupply the migrant ship.

In the meantime some in Italy have offered to take in the migrants, with the mayor of Taranto, Rinaldo Melucci, saying that the Calabrian port city was "ready to embrace every life in danger".

"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 been claiming for years that it is unfair that it has been rescuing migrants at sea without the support of its European partners". Salvini has already said he wants to work with Orban, with whom he has already spoken on the phone, to "change the rules" of the EU.

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"If anyone thinks I won't move a muscle while we have another summer of landings, landings and more landings, well that's not what I'm going to do", Salvini told reporters.

Sanchez said the invitation, his first global initiative since toppling his corruption-tainted conservative predecessor, was a way to "comply with worldwide commitments regarding humanitarian emergencies".

Amid the political dispute, The Aquarius, a rescue ship belonging to the SOS Mediterraneee charity, has been stuck in the Mediterranean Sea with its passengers, including 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women.

"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".

Malta refused, saying it had nothing to do with the rescue mission, which was overseen by Italian coastguard. But Italy can not simply expel hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants without severe repression, and Italy doesn't yet have the agreements with many key countries of origin needed to facilitate returns.

Italy's position, Muscat said, risks "creating a risky situation for all those involved". France and Spain have previously said it's not their job either.

"Still no news from Italian authorities".

As the rhetoric intensified, the Aquarius remained on standby in the Mediterranean Sea with its 629 passengers.

But after Italy's new far-right interior minister said it couldn't dock, and then Malta said the migrants were Italy's responsibility since Italy's coast guard oversaw the rescue, the ship was running out of provisions. SOS Mediterranee spokesman Mathilde Auvillain said the ship was "heading north following instructions received after the rescues and transfers" on Saturday night.