A private rescue ship carrying 629 migrants remained Sunday evening on a northward course in the Mediterranean Sea after more than a day of not receiving permission to dock in either Italy or the small island nation of Malta.
Matteo Salvini, in a joint statement with Danilo Toninelli, the minister in charge of the Italian coastguard, insisted that Malta "cannot continue to look the other way when it comes to respecting precise global conventions on the protection of human life".
"Naples is ready, without funds, to save lives", he said.
Tweeting on Sunday, Salvini said: "Starting today, Italy, too, begins to say NO to the trafficking of human beings, NO to the business of clandestine immigration".
The migrants were saved by SOS Mediterranee on Saturday and are stuck aboard the French NGO's ship Aquarius, which is now between Malta and Sicily waiting for a secure port for her to dock.
The Maltese authorities have been insisting 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. "The people we saved were in a hard condition, at least 50 were at risk of drowning", he added.
"We want President Macron to open his ports".
The BBCreports that among those on board are "123 unaccompanied minors, 11 younger children and seven pregnant women".
Now, the Captain of this vessel refused to go to Malta because there is a political point to all this. Right-wing politicians have accused charity boats operating off the coast of Libya of operating as "taxis" for migrants.
Migrants on April 23 watch the Sicilian coast from the Aquarius vessel as they arrive in Trapani, Italy.
Driven by violent conflicts and extreme poverty, hundreds of thousands of migrants have reached southern Europe in recent years by crossing the Mediterranean in smugglers' boats that often are unseaworthy.
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