Hundreds of migrants stranded at sea as Italy, Malta close doors

Italy shuts ports to rescue ship carrying 629 migrants

Malta is in full conformity with worldwide obligations and will not take the vessel in its ports.

Salvini, the leader of the far-right League, was rejected by Malta who said the ship fell under Italy's jurisdiction. "They manifestly go against global rules and risk creating a unsafe situation for all those involved".

The decision ultimately rests with Salvini's government because a ship typically can not dock without the presence of the Italian coastguard, which is controlled by Rome.

Tweeting out the hashtag #CloseMyPorts, Salvini identified the Sea Watch 3, a Dutch-flagged vessel working for a German open-borders group, telling his followers: "Italy has stopped bending its head and obeying, this is the time where we say no".

Italy's new interior minister, Matteo Salvini announced on Sunday that all Italian ports were closed to the rescue boat, called Aquarius.

However, Mr Salvini does not have authority over the ports and it was not immediately clear if his line would hold.

In an official statement, the Maltese government said: "The rescue by NGO boat Aquarius was conducted in the Libyan Search and Rescue region and coordinated by Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) Rome".

As of Monday morning, the Aquarius was circling in global waters off Malta after the Italian maritime coordination centre in Rome ordered the vessel to stay put (see map).

The BBC reports that among those on board are "123 unaccompanied minors, 11 younger children and seven pregnant women".

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Muscat said Malta will offer to evacuate people who require urgent medical help, without prejudice to its stand in refusing entry to the ship.

"From today, Italy will also start to say no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration".

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Italy's refusal to allow the Aquarius ship to dock at an Italian port risked "creating a unsafe situation for all those involved".

"This is not an inhumane act", said Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, in charge of Italy's ports and coast guard. "RCC Malta in this case is neither the competent, nor the coordinating authority".

"The Mediterranean is the sea of all the countries that face it, and it (Malta) can't imagine that Italy will continue to face this giant phenomenon (of migration) in solitude", the ministers said.

Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat also refused to take in the Aquarius ship of the humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee. It added that the Aquarius "is still waiting for definitive instructions regarding the port of safety".

The charity say they have enough supplies to feed the migrants at least for another day.

The rescue service said its patrol craft reached nine different boats carrying migrants that had left from Africa on Saturday and early Sunday.