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Spain offers to take in migrant ship marooned by Italian politics

Spain offers to take in migrant ship marooned by Italian politics

Having come under fire for banning the migrant rescue ship "Aquarius" with 629 people on board from docking at its ports, Italy's new government says it's been left alone by the European Union to deal with the uncontrolled influx of refugees.

Amid the political dispute, The Aquarius, a rescue ship belonging to the SOS Mediterraneee charity, has been stuck in the Mediterranean Sea with its passengers, including 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women.

Italy has denied permission for a rescue ship to drop off 629 migrants after Malta refused to open its ports.

SOS Mediterranee, which runs the Aquarius, said the ship was instructed by the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre on Sunday to stand by at 35 nautical miles from Italy and 27 nautical miles from Malta. "France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons", Mr Salvini wrote on Facebook.

Salvini, who also serves as Italy's interior minister, has promised to change immigration policies in Italy, saying the new Italian government's efforts will be aimed at guaranteeing peaceful lives for Africans in Africa and for Italians in their own country.

It will be hard, perhaps impossible, for Mr. Salvini to prevent the ship from mooring in Italy if passengers' lives become endangered.

But they need the cooperation of the Italian coastguard. It said in a statement that the Aquarius took on the passengers in waters controlled by Libya and where Italian authorities in Rome coordinate search-and-rescue operations.

The number of migrants arriving in Spain has been on the rise, Benavides reports, while the number of sea arrivals in Italy "has dropped 77 percent compared to this time a year ago, following controversial deals with the Libyan Coast Guard and investigations into NGO search-and-rescues".

Salvini's comments came after another spat with Malta over its reported refusal to come to the aid of the rescue ship Seefuchs, which was stranded with 126 migrants on board in violent seas until it was allowed to dock in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo on Saturday. The League campaigned on an anti-migrant platform that proved popular with Italian voters because Italy and Greece had borne the brunt of the refugee and migrant crisis.

"We haven't moved since last night, people are starting to wonder why we've stopped", journalist Anelise Borges, who is aboard the Aquarius, said in a tweet.

The standoff marked the first display of Italy's get-tough immigration policy under the right-wing League.

There are no showers or sinks for migrants on the Aquarius and rescue workers use a disinfectant spray on people's hands before they eat.

"We would need a resupply at sea which is not so easy to organize so we urge Italy to find a solution very soon close to our position", he told The Associated Press in Paris.

Another local resident, Natale Lombardo, said illegal migrants disembarking on the island were virtually "invading" them, adding that "he who arrives here legally is welcomed, but between these people there are also illegals and those can't be tolerated".

The agency was sent questions to assess whether any of the countries were violating their obligations to Frontex or any other worldwide agreements, and at which port should the migrants disembark.

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