Spain offers to take in drifting migrant ship Aquarius

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After urging a quick resolution of the impasse earlier in the day, the United Nations refugee agency, through spokesman Charlie Yaxley, said Sanchez's offer "is a welcome development and a great display of solidarity from Spain with refugees".

The Italian government has urged Malta to take the 629 migrants, rescued this weekend and now aboard a boat managed by the SOS Mediterranee aid group.

"We will not turn Italy into a huge refugee camp", he wrote.

"Italy has stopped bowing our heads and obeying. This time there's someone saying no".

Italy's new Lega and Five Star Movement (M5S) coalition Government pledged it would pressure the bloc into reforming its immigration policy to ensure member states have an equal role in managing the migration crisis.

Migrants sit aboard MV Aquarius, a rescue vessel chartered by SOS-Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), at the Mediterranean sea between Libya and Italy on May 9, 2018. Many thousands of them drowned en route.

But with 3,116 deaths in 2017, the Mediterranean remained the deadliest migrant route in the world a year ago, according to the IOM.

Salvini, leader of the right-wing League, had promised voters ahead of the country's recent general election that it would act tough against immigration. The migrants were bottled in Italy when northern neighbours, including France and Switzerland, closed their borders to new arrivals. 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. He reiterated that promise in Sicily immediately after the government was formed. In particular, Salvini was calling out Malta for being less than thirty miles away and consistently refusing to accept any of these boat people who are rescued at sea.

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Why has Italy refused to allow the ship to dock?

That agreement is thought to have involved payments to certain Libyan authorities and strongmen. Salvini has already said he wants to work with Orban, with whom he has already spoken on the phone, to "change the rules" of the EU.

"My aim is to guarantee a peaceful life for these youths in Africa and for our children in Italy", Salvini said, using the Twitter hashtag "We are shutting the ports".

"It means that we need at least two more days of sailing, which is not possible today with 629 people on board", SOS Mediterranee Maritime Operations Manager Antoine Laurent said. Passengers include pregnant women, unaccompanied minors and a number of younger children. He has previously accused them of being in cahoots with human traffickers. By Sunday, it held enough food to feed all the passengers for roughly 48 hours. He noted that other European countries are very much involved in migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean - including a German aid group now off the coast Libya - but no country is stepping up to actually take in the migrants once they are plucked from boats or the sea.

"Our sole objective is to bring the people we've rescued, in hard conditions yesterday, to a port of safety, ' the group said in a statement".

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez ordered authorities to allow the Aquarius to dock in the eastern port of Valencia.

"It is our obligation to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people, as such meeting with the obligations of International Law", said Sánchez in a press release made public on Monday. "We have never been a situation before where we have been denied a right to a port of safety", he said Monday via a WhatsApp message.

"People are in distress, are running out of provisions and need help quickly".

The U.N. refugee agency said Monday that there was "an urgent humanitarian imperative" to act, calling on governments to accept the distressed migrants now and resolve "broader issues" later.

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