Italy closes ports to migrant ship in row with Malta

Italy closes ports to migrant ship in row with Malta

The Mayor of Palermo, one of those cities keen to defy Italy's new populist, anti-establishment left-right coalition government, caught headlines with his remarks when he said of his decision to open the port: "Palermo in ancient Greek meant "complete port". "This could compromise all the work and cooperation between us over the past few years".

Its route north will take it past Malta, and an official said that Salvini had written to the government of the small island state asking it to let The Aquarius dock there.

Italy has refused to grant access to another migrant rescue ship right after denying entry to nearly 630 migrants on board the rescue vessel Acquarius, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said.

The charity said the group of mainly sub-Saharan Africans were picked up in six different rescue operations off the coast of Libya and included hundreds who were plucked from the sea by Italian naval units and then transferred to The Aquarius.

Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini, head of the League party, said: "Enough!"

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

Malta has refused to take in the Aquarius. Passengers include 11 children and seven pregnant women, as well as 123 unaccompanied minors.

And the crisis between the Mediterranean countries may be far from being over, as Italian newspaper Repubblica reported that 800 more people have been saved by both Italian and global boats in Libyan waters overnight.

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Despite the claim by Mayor Orlando that the government stands in opposition to worldwide law by closing the ports to migrant smuggling operations, a distinguished expert on global maritime law Admiral Paolo Caffio has given his verdict, stating that not only is it legal, but there is also precedent, reports Il Giornale.

According to the daily Corriere Della Sera, the letter describes Malta's capital, Valletta, as the "most secure port" and the boat should thus dock there.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Italy's refusal to allow the Aquarius ship to dock at an Italian port risks "creating a risky situation for all those involved". The Rome-based rescue coordination center gave the instructions.

The group said it "urgently requests a swift resolution and a designated port of safety".

Mr Salvini says he is considering action against organisations rescuing migrants at sea.

More than 550,000 migrants have arrived in Italy between June 2014 and June 2017. The cause of death was yet to be determined. The lawlessness in Libya has made it a popular place for migrants to try to depart for Europe.

The United Nations says at least 785 migrants have died crossing the sea so far this year.

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