Aquarius: What's happening to the migrants on the rescue ship?

Italy shuts ports to rescue ship carrying 629 migrants

It sailed north toward Italy, but Matteo Salvini, the head of the far-right League party who became interior minister this month vowing to crack down on the influx of migrants from Africa, blocked the ship and said it should go to Malta instead.

Salvini tweeted "VICTORY" after the two days of confrontation with Malta over the migrants ended with Spain's offer of help.

"We comply with worldwide commitments regarding humanitarian emergencies", Sánchez wrote on Twitter.

The migrants will be taken by the Italian coast guard to Spain, but it is not yet clear if they will be taken there directly, or how the rest of the 629 will reach the Spanish mainland.

"To deny entry to a port when the facilities are there, it feels like a bigger statement", said Elizabeth Collett, the director of the Migration Policy Institute Europe.

Italy's position, Muscat said, risks "creating a risky situation for all those involved".

He added: "It will be necessary to sit down and discuss how to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future".

Italian newspaper Repubblica reported government sources said Mr Salvini's plan is to only let migrants enter Italian waters if they are on Italian, military or commercial boats.

Nongovernmental organizations, which now play a large role in rescuing migrants, say they are concerned that Italy's stand will make their work harder.

"Given the boat's location, it is between Italy and Malta".

"Rome is that rescued people will later be transferred on Italian ships before heading together to" the eastern Spanish port of Valencia, the charity said on Twitter.

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Salvini refused to back down.

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". My goal is to guarantee a peaceful life for these children in Africa and for our children in Italy", Salvini tweeted Sunday using the hashtag "We are shutting the ports".

Under global law, people rescued at sea should be brought to the nearest and safest port for assistance. Another 21 patients suffered severe chemical burns from exposure to sea water mixed with fuel, while others risk pneumonia and yet others need immediate surgery for orthopedic issues.

The migrants were rescued in six separate nighttime operations in the central Mediterranean on Saturday.

Some 629 people, including pregnant women and scores of children, were saved by SOS Mediterranean Saturday and are stuck aboard the French NGO's ship Aquarius, which is now between Malta and Sicily waiting for a secure port.

Instead they were brutally rejected.

Malta has accused Italy of violating worldwide 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.

The Italian government, and others like it including Britain's, want hundreds of people to drown to deter others from trying to flee to Europe to escape war, poverty and climate change.

While Spain adopted a diplomatic tone with Italy when it announced it would take the migrants, relations between Rome and Paris have deteriorated in an explosion of accusations and counter-accusations.

"Our land has always been one of refuge, I don't know how you can send away 629 human lives".

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