Italy Demands UK Take 140 Illegals Picked up by NGO Boat

Migrants picked up the Doctors Without Borders Sea boat the Aquarius. 141 were rescued and are now being refused permission to dock in Italy and Malta. Pic Guglielmo Mangiapane SOS Mediterranee

Migrants picked up the Doctors Without Borders Sea boat the Aquarius. 141 were rescued and are now being refused permission to dock in Italy and Malta. Pic Guglielmo Mangiapane SOS Mediterranee

They first found 25 people drifting on a small wooden boat without an engine and believe they had been at sea for 36 hours.

Italian transport minister Danilo Toninelli claimed the United Kingdom is responsible for the migrants on board as the rescue ship that picked them up is sailing under the flag of the British territory.

Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee, who operate the ship Aquarius, said that the health of those rescued in two operations Friday is stable but that many are weak and malnourished.

Doctors Without Borders said in a statement said that European governments are focusing their efforts on "propping up the Libyan JRCC (joint rescue cooperation center)" but that the two rescues Friday underlined the unreliability of that system.

Later that day, Aquarius spotted a second overcrowded wooden boat with 116 people onboard, including 67 unaccompanied minors.

The majority of those rescued had come from Somalia and Eritrea.

Malta's armed forces say that a patrol boat has rescued 114 migrants aboard a rubber dinghy taking on water 53 nautical miles south of the Mediterranean island nation.

When asked why the ship had not made for Libya, the nearest port at the time of rescue, Beau said that, according to global law: "A safe port is a port in which people can obtain protection, which is absolutely not the case in Libya in the current situation".

"It can go where it wants, not in Italy!" far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Twitter on Monday, mentioning France, Germany, Britain or Malta as possible destinations.

The Libyan JRCC informed the Aquarius that it would not provide a place of safety and instructed Aquarius to request a place of safety from another coordination centre.

Meanwhile the government of Gibraltar announced yesterday that the Aquarius would no longer be allowed to operate under its maritime flag.

The group said many reported they had been held in inhumane conditions in Libya.

More than 650 000 migrants have come to Italy's shores since 2014, prompting Rome to accuse its European Union peers of not sharing the burden of caring for those who arrive on the bloc's southern border.

The vessel, Aquarius, rescued migrants from global waters on Friday with the help of Libya.

Italy's new populist government has vowed that no more private aid ships will bring migrants to Italian shores.

"What is of utmost importance is that the survivors are brought to a place of safety without delay, where their basic needs can be met and where they can be protected from abuse", said the group's search and rescue coordinator, Nick Romaniuk.

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