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11 June 2018, 03:23 | Erica Roy
Cartoon by Mikiel Galea
Italy's new interior minister threatened to bar rescue ships from docking in the country's ports after Maltarefused to take hundreds of migrants, reports say.
The MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship run in partnership between SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres, has been told by Italian authorities to stand by in its current position, 35 nautical miles from Italy and 27 nautical miles from Malta.
European charity SOS Mediterranee said on Twitter its rescue boat Aquarius had taken on board 629 migrants and refugees, including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children, and seven pregnant women.
After leading an hours-long meeting with his coalition leaders Sunday night at the premier's office, Conte said Italy was sending two motorboats with medical staff aboard in case the migrants needed help but he made no mention of how the Aquarius might ever get into port.
"As such Malta will not take the said vessel in its ports", their statement continued.
"From now also Italy begins to say NO to the traffic of human beings, NO to the business of illegal immigration".
Malta is accusing 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.
Salvini, in a joint statement with Italian coastguard minister Danilo Toninelli, insisted that Malta "cannot continue to look the other way when it comes to respecting precise global conventions on the protection of human life".
The Maltese Rescue Coordination Center "is neither the competent nor the coordinating authority", the statement said.
While she does call on the European Union not to leave Malta and Italy on their own, Metsola's dig at Muscat contrasts with the message of support relayed on Sunday by Opposition leader Adrian Delia for government's stand.
The League had promised voters during recent elections that it would take a tough stance on immigration.
The small island nation with fewer than a half million inhabitants says it already accepts more refugees per capita than Italy, which has taken in more than 600,000 boat migrants since 2014.
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