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Maltese Army Ferries Out Food And Water To Stranded Migrants

Maltese Army Ferries Out Food And Water To Stranded Migrants

The 629 migrants, including 11 children and seven pregnant women, have been drifting in the central Mediterranean aboard the Aquarius rescue ship since Sunday, when both Italy and Malta shut their ports to it.

The 629 people now on board Aquarius were rescued during night of Saturday to Sunday, when Aquarius carried out six rescue and transfer operations in the space of nine hours - all under instruction from the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (IMRCC).

"Bizarrely, 400 of these people were transferred to Aquarius from Italian navy and coast guard ships" during their initial rescue, MSF wrote.

Some of the minors come from Eritrea, Ghana, Nigeria and Sudan.

At a news conference on Monday, Italy's powerful interior minister, Matteo Salvini, protested the inequity of Italy serving as a primary entry point for refugees and migrants while other members of the European Union balk at helping to resettle them. Saving lives is a duty, but transforming Italy into an enormous refugee camp isn't...

MSF Sea (Doctors Without Borders) said the medical situation of those on the Aquarius was "stable for now but unnecessary delay to disembarkation in safe port puts vulnerable patients at risk". 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.

Mr Salvini, leader of the right-wing League party, promised to take a tough stance against migration and has also said he was considering taking action against organisations that rescue migrants at sea. "All EU governments and institutions must step up and support countries on the frontline dealing with sea arrivals such as Italy, to guarantee shared solutions and stop unacceptable silence and inaction from EU states".

On late Monday, Doctors Without Borders said on Twitter it "welcomes this gesture of humanity but it would require four more days at sea in a boat already over maximum capacity and in deteriorating weather conditions".

Could the migrants have gone to Malta?

"We need to show solidarity which Italy has not shown".

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A cargo ship from Malta has provided some extra supplies, but it is not known if this will sustain the ship for another 72 hours.

Under EU rules, migrants must apply for asylum in the European country where they first arrive.

Why has Spain stepped in?

"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 and legal processing", the organisation said.

Both the Mayor of Barcelona and the Mayor of Valencia offered their cities to take in the ship, with the latter being the end destination for the Aquarius' 1,300 km route.

Rescue at sea is regulated by global law, which "is clear on the fact that any shipmaster has the obligation to provide assistance to persons in distress at sea", said Dr. Sarah Wolff, a lecturer in Public Policy at Queen Mary University, London.

"What does global law say? In general states have the obligation to provide assistance to persons in distress at sea".

The Aquarius took on the migrants after it intercepted human traffickers' boats in the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday. Since the start of the year, almost 14,000 migrants have arrived in Italy; an additional 500 have died attempting the journey. In 2013-2014, the operation Mare Nostrum was an Italian military rescue operation that saved around 150,000 migrants from drowning and cost about 10 million euros per month.

"In the Italian case, turning this into a political weapon is despicable.it is clear that Europe must act more wisely, but we can not let these people die at sea", he said.


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