Malta rejects Italy's calls to take in rescue ship with 629 migrants

Map showing Malta's SAR region, the migrant's rescue location, Lampedusa and Malta relative to the Aquarius path and location at 4.51pm on Sunday

However, the European Commission, "anxious to avoid feeding the new Italian government's anti-EU narrative, took a softer line" reports The Guardian, "calling on Italy and Malta to consider the humanitarian needs of those on board but insisting the matter was outside its control".

Following Italy's decision, Malta also said it would not accept the ship either so it remained in standby between the two countries for days.

Italy's firebrand interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who leads the anti-immigrant League party in the governing coalition, has long railed against what he depicts as Europe's failure to show solidarity with Italy during the migrant crisis in recent years.

"Saving lives at sea is a duty, but transforming Italy into an enormous refugee camp is not", Salvini wrote on Facebook on Monday.

"Our objective is the disembarkation in a port of safety of the 629 people now on board the Aquarius - some we rescued yesterday night in hard conditions", she said.

The Aquarius had been instructed by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Rome "to transfer 400 of the 629 refugees and migrants now on board back to Italian Navy ships which will then head to Valencia to disembark", MSF Sea tweeted.

"Our objective is the disembarkation in a port of safety of the 629 people now on board the Aquarius - some we rescued yesterday night in hard conditions", she was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The 629 people, including seven pregnant women and 100 unaccompanied children, are to make another four-day journey to Valencia just as the Aquarius ship was about to run out of supplies. The tiny island nation with fewer than a half a million inhabitants says it already accepts more refugees per capita than Italy, which has taken in more than 600,000 boat migrants since 2014.

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Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday accused Italy of "cynicism and irresponsibility" over its refusal to take in hundreds of migrants stranded on a rescue ship in the Mediterranean.

As such Malta will not take the said vessel in its ports. But the government of Malta also refused, and as a result the Aquarius was left with no place to dock.

Refugees International reminds European Union governments that while a fair mechanism for sharing the responsibility for Europe's recent refugee arrivals is urgently needed, the reality is that only a small fraction of the world's migrants and refugees ever reaches Europe.

However, Malta denied Italy's request and said that it has nothing to do with the rescue operation.

The Aquarius said it had received no instructions yet to head to Spain. "The coastguard and navy can continue to save lives, but other countries need to keep giving us a hand".

The ship called Aquarius rescued around 230 migrants on Saturday and more than 400 were transferred to the ship by Italian military and merchant ships in the area.

Instead they were brutally rejected.

The migrants were rescued by SOS Mediterranee's vessel Aquarius in six separate night-time operations in the central Mediterranean on Saturday.

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