Migrant ship finally sets sail to safe port in Spain

Migrant ship finally sets sail to safe port in Spain

The migrants had been rescued during a series of operations on Saturday by Italian maritime ships, cargo vessels and the Aquarius itself.

The rescue ship was stranded this weekend after Italy and Malta refused to allow it to dock.

Since Sunday, when both Italy and Malta refused to let them dock, some 629 migrants, including 11 children and seven pregnant women, have been in the central Mediterranean aboard the Aquarius.

It sailed north toward Italy, but Matteo Salvini, the head of the far-right League party who became interior minister this month vowing to crack down on the influx of migrants from Africa, blocked the ship and said it should go to Malta instead.

"Today the Sea Watch 3 ship of a German NGO flying a Dutch flag is off the Libyan coast waiting to take on the umpteenth load of immigrants to bring to Italy again ..."

"This plan would mean already exhausted rescued people would endure four more days travel at sea", it added.

Pictures from aboard the Aquarius, which is operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders, showed hundreds of Africans huddled aboard, including a young girl wrapped in a blanket in the arms of a rescue worker.

The offer was a direct move by Spain's newly-elected Socialist prime minister, Pedro Sánchez.

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The Italian Coast Guard said it had contacted countries that are responsible for the waters the Aquarius convoy will cross to ensure authorities are on alert if there were any possible medical emergencies among the migrants that require outside intervention.

However, French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the decision to block the Aquarius, saying that under worldwide law Italy should have taken the migrants in.

Malta resisted, and its prime minister, Joseph Muscat, accused Italy of breaking "international rules" and blamed it for causing a "standoff".

French President Emmanuel Macron, who had been criticized for not offering to take in the boat at a French port, broke his silence on the topic during a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, denouncing the "cynicism and irresponsibility of the Italian government", government spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux said at a press conference. Another 21 patients suffered severe chemical burns from exposure to sea water mixed with fuel, while others risk pneumonia and yet others need immediate surgery for orthopedic issues.

Some in Italy have offered to take in migrants.

Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini told Italian media that a second humanitarian ship, the Sea Watch 3, which is now navigating off the Libyan coast, will not be allowed into Italian ports, if and when it is involved in a migrant rescue operation. On Sunday evening, he posted an image of himself on Twitter with his arms crossed above the message, "We are closing the ports", rendered as an Italian hashtag.

Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement that makes up Italy's new government alongside the nationalist League, said that it was "embarrassing" that France "preached to us" as Italy is asking its European partners to share the rights and duties in solidarity with Italy.

But the charity's missions will continue "as long as there are people drowning in the Mediterranean, as long as we have the resources, and as long as we are able to act and we are not kicked out of the area", she said.

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