Mi­grant aid ship on way to Spain as Italy draws deeper line

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

In the mean­time, Italy es­ca­lated its quar­rel with France over mi­gra­tion, chal­leng­ing the bor­der­ing coun­try to take in more asy­lum-seek­ers and de­mand­ing an apol­ogy af­ter the French pres­i­dent ac­cused the new Ital­ian gov­ern­ment of ir­re­spon­si­ble be­hav­iour for re­fus­ing en­try to a res­cue ship with hun­dreds of mi­grants aboard.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Mat­teo Salvini chided French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron by name dur­ing a speech be­fore Par­lia­ment’s up­per cham­ber, while Ital­ian news re­ports said a meet­ing be­tween Macron and Ital­ian Premier Giuseppe Conte planned for to­day now was in doubt.

“I speak in the name of a gov­ern­ment, but I also have the aim of speak­ing for a peo­ple who have noth­ing to learn from any­one about gen­eros­ity, vol­un­teerism, wel­come and sol­i­dar­ity,” Salvini, the leader of the anti-mi­grant League party, said to ap­plause in the se­nate cham­ber.

In other signs of the con­tin­u­ing clash, Italy sum­moned the French am­bas­sador for con­sul­ta­tions, can­celled a planned meet­ing be­tween fi­nance min­is­ters and warned that diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween the two Eu­ro­pean Union mem­bers had been com­pro­mised.

Italy has re­ceived both crit­i­cism and praise for turn­ing away the Aquar­ius res­cue ship over the week­end as it made its way across the Mediter­ranean car­ry­ing 629 mi­grants. Rome says the res­cue ves­sel’s pas­sen­gers never were in dan­ger and ar­gues that other Eu­ro­pean coun­tries must share the work of wel­com­ing would-be asy­lum-seek­ers.

Two Ital­ian naval ves­sels are es­cort­ing the ship to Spain af­ter the So­cial­ist gov­ern­ment of new Prime Min­is­ter Pe­dro Sanchez of­fered the Aquar­ius safe har­bour on Monday.

The Aquar­ius and two Ital­ian ships that took on some of the 629 pas­sen­gers were ex­pected to ar­rive in Va­len­cia on Saturday night, weather con­di­tions per­mit­ting, said SOS Mediter­ranée co-founder So­phie Beau, whose char­ity op­er­ates the aid ship. If the time­line holds, that would be a week af­ter the Aquar­ius first sought per­mis­sion to dock in Italy.

The port of Va­len­cia is some 1,500 kilo­me­tres from where the ves­sel had been on standby.

“It’s a re­lief for ev­ery­one, our teams and of course above all for the sur­vivors, to know that they are fi­nally al­lowed to head to a safe port in Eu­rope,” Beau told re­porters in Mar­seille, France.

The aid group said yes­ter­day that the Ital­ian coast guard boat lead­ing the con­voy de­cided to skirt Sar­dinia’s east coast af­ter high waves caused ex­hausted mi­grants aboard to be sea­sick.

Spain of­fered safe har­bour af­ter Italy, which wants fel­low Eu­ro­pean Union coun­tries to do more, re­fused to do so.

SOS Mediter­ranée said men who were still on the deck of the Aquar­ius ex­posed to the el­e­ments were dizzy and vom­it­ing and were taken in­side the ship to be treated for sea­sick­ness.

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