DIPLOMATIC STANDOFF BETWEEN MALTA AND ITALY ON MIGRATION
The diplomatic standoff between Malta and Italy on migration escalated and has worsened in the last hours as the Maltese government has accused the Italian authorities of creating a dangerous situation for the 629 migrants stranded on the vessel Aquarius. Amongst the rescued there are 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and seven pregnant women.
The Maltese government also showed concerns at the Italian authorities’ directions given to the crew aboard Aquarius and insisted these go against the international rules. The ship is now some 27 miles east of Malta.
In a telephone communication with the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat reiterated that Malta will not take the said vessel in its ports. Muscat insisted that his government is acting in full conformity with its international obligations.
The Maltese Premier said that without prejudice to its position, and in conformity with its policy throughout the past years, Malta has always been willing, where possible, to carry out emergency medical evacuations of persons requiring urgent medical care for humanitarian reasons.
The migrants were rescued by various vessels in the Libyan rescue zone and then transferred to the Aquarius. The Italian island of Lampedusa was the closest port of the rescue area, but the newly-elected right-wing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini declared all the Italian ports closed and demanded Malta to take the migrants.