Spain allowed a rescue ship with 629 migrants aboard stranded in the Mediterranean to dock in Valencia after Italy and Malta refused the vessel entry.
But Charities Medecins Sans Frontieres and Sos Mediterranee, who operate the ship Aquarius, are not sure whether to proceed because they feel sailing in bad weather for four days with so many passengers, many facing health issues, and supplies running out is too risky.
Since Italy is closer to the ship’s current position, they want it to organise resupply of food, water, blankets and clothes. The migrants are now left with just energy biscuits. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has already agreed to send supplies to the ship.
Spain’s new socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said it is his government’s duty to avert a humanitarian catastrophe by immediately offering a safe port to the migrants among whom are some 123 non-accompanied minors, 11 children and seven pregnant women.
While thanking Sanchez for allowing the migrants aboard Aquarius (pictured) to disembark in Valencia, Italy’s new Interior Minister and leader of League party Matteo Salvini said he cannot allow Italy to be turned into Europe’s largest refugee camp.
More than 600,000 people, mostly African migrants, have reached Italy by boat from Libya in the past five years.
Salvini’s League made considerable gains in the March elections on the promise of expelling failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants.
The ship Aquarius first headed to Italy but Salvini blocked it and directed it to Malta saying other EU countries have to share the burden of migration inflows.
The move sparked a standoff between Italy and Malta with Valletta arguing that Rome has to take in the ship since some 400 migrants were rescued by Italian coastguard before they were transferred to Aquarius.
Salvini wants to call up his counterparts in EU states to discuss sharing the burden of migrant inflows.
But the UN Refugee Agency urged Italy to allow the immediate disembarkation of migrants and think of sharing the burden later.
Human rights groups are not happy with Italy’s stand on the migrants stranded at sea. They say any political decision that puts people’s lives at risk is unacceptable.