A ship carrying more than 600 rescued migrants, including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and 7 pregnant women, is left stranded in the Mediterranean Sea after Italy’s new government refused a port of disembarkation to the rescue ship. Malta, the small Mediterranean island nation also refused to allow the rescue vessel to dock on its shores.
The migrants were rescued in several operations carried out in the Mediterranean over the past 24 hours taking on people from rubber vessels as well as “Italian navy ships, Italian coast guard ships and merchant vessels” in its rescue operation efforts.
The far-right League Party that won a record number of votes in the March election this year has adopted a tough line on the immigration issue and has promised to deport half a million illegal migrants from Italy.
Aquarius, the rescue ship is operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the SOS Mediterranee organisations.
MSF said the boat was located 35 nautical miles from Italy and 27 nautical miles from Malta. The organisation has tweeted that the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center told Aquarius Sunday to “standby in [their] current position”.
Italy and Malta are locked in a diplomatic spat over migrant arrivals. Italy has accused the Mediterranean island nation of not doing its fair share to take in migrants.
Earlier, Italy had reportedly asked Malta to disembark the rescued migrants there. However, Malta’s Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security has issued a statement saying Malta is not responsible for the rescue effort.
On Twitter, MSF expressed concern that “again politics are being placed above people’s lives. The aid group said on Monday that unnecessary delay to disembarkation in safe port puts vulnerable patients at risk, particularly: 7 pregnant women, 15 w/ serious chemical burns, several critical drowning and hypothermia patients.
As per reports, more than 600,000 migrants have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the last five years. The UN migration agency said that this year 655 migrants and refugees, who were trying to reach Europe, had died in the Mediterranean Sea.