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Migrants stranded in Mediterranean after Italy closes ports

STRANDED: Italy and Malta are refusing the rescue ship permission to dock (Image: Karpov/SOS Méditerranée)

A RESCUE ship with more than 600 migrants is being refused entry to Italy.

Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing League party, has refused to give the rescue ship permission to dock.

Salvini, wants Malta to accept the vessel and it’s 629 migrant passengers but the country has also denied them entry, claiming that the ship is within Italy’s jurisdiction.

Speaking on Sunday, Salvini said that Italy was saying "no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration".

"Malta takes in nobody," he added. "France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons."

As a result of the standoff between Italy and Malta, the ship, Aquarius, is stranded in the waters.

SOS Méditerranée has said that the Italian Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre has directed the ship to maintain their current position – 35 nautical miles from Italy and 27 nautical miles from Malta.

In an update posted to their Twitter account, SOS Méditerranée said: “Having no further news on its designated Port of Safety, Aquarius continues its route North and is urgently expecting instructions before having to stop halfway between Malta and Sicily. 629 rescued people need a decision.”

Aquarius, an NGO rescue vessel run by Médecins Sans Frontières and SOS Méditerranée, saved the 629 migrants on Saturday, where they were found off the coast of Libya.

Among those onboard are 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and seven pregnant women, according to SOS Méditerranée.

Another group of 400 migrants were refused entry to Malta on Saturday.

Salvini said: “They can’t keep saying no to requests for help.

“If anyone thinks I’ll allow another summer of (migrant) landings, without lifting a finger – that is not what I will be doing as minister of the interior.”

In the last five years, more than 700,000 people have arrived in Italy via similar methods.

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