Why Italy has closed its ports to a migrant rescue ship

Italy turns away ship carrying over 600 migrants

The agency's special envoy for migrants in the Mediterranean, Vincent Cochetel, underscored that "people are in distress, are running out of provisions and need help quickly".

Tweeting out the hashtag #CloseMyPorts, Salvini identified the Sea Watch 3, a Dutch-flagged vessel working for a German open-borders group, telling his followers: "Italy has stopped bending its head and obeying, this is the time where we say no".

The ship said it had been ordered on Sunday night by Italy's coast guard to remain 35 miles off Italy and 27 miles from Malta.

"Malta is respecting worldwide rules and, therefore, can't let Aquarius dock at its port".

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

The summer of 2016 saw a surge in mass drownings in the Mediterranean as Europe's worst migration crisis since World War II peaked with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere.

"The rescue ship's crew pulled 229 migrants from the water or from traffickers" unseaworthy boats on Saturday night, including 123 unaccompanied children and seven pregnant women. Picture taken June 9, 2018.

The European Commission urged action.

SOS Mediterranee said Maltese search-and-rescue authorities were contacted by their Italian counterparts "to find the best solution for the well-being and safety" of the people on the ship.

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In a statement late on Sunday, the government said Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and the Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, had a telephone conversation on the developing situation of the vessel Acquarius.

"We call on all involved to contribute to a swift resolution so that the people on board the Aquarius vessel may be safely disembarked as soon as possible", Schinas said.

"We are concerned at Italy authorities' directions given to Aquarius on high seas".

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

The rescue service said its patrol craft reached nine different boats carrying migrants that had left from Africa on Saturday and early Sunday.

Valletta said that since the rescue happened in the Libyan search and rescue area and was coordinated from Rome, Malta is neither the coordinating authority nor has the competence to settle this issue, thus it would not take in the migrants and asylum seekers.

By law, it will be hard for Italy to refuse the boat a safe haven, as its own Coast Guard coordinated the rescues, picking up more than 280 migrants in its own vessels before transferring them to the Aquarius to be taken to safety.

The Sea Watch still did not have any migrants on board, spokesman Ruben Neugebauer said.

Last week, Salvini said Rome should increase its deportations of migrants.

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