Italian media say aid ship denied right to dock

Meanwhile Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, a member of M5S and the minister in charge of the Italian coast guard, said that "this time everyone has to understand that global law can not mean that Italy should be abandoned". "Italy has stopped bowing down, it's now time to say no".

"Broader issues such as who has responsibility and how these responsibilities can best be shared between States should be looked at later". "We have no food or water to make it to Spain anyway", an MSF spokesperson said.

Driven by violent conflicts and extreme poverty, tens of thousands of migrants attempt to reach southern Europe each year by crossing the Mediterranean in smugglers' boats.

"Our only objective is the disembarkation in a port of safety of the people that we rescued yesterday in hard conditions", it said, adding that it "took good note" of the Italian Interior Ministry's statements.

This solution is happy for Italy, which maintains closure of its ports, and Spanish president, which resolves a humanitarian crisis that affects European migratory policy in full.

"It's common sense. We ask that all of Europe assume responsibility for such a delicate and important issue as is immigration", he said in a TV interview. Earlier in the day, the European Commission had urged action.

"We still don't know when we are leaving, and we still have 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) to cross with the rescued people, some of whom are in a critical condition", Beau said.

The migrants had been rescued from flimsy smugglers' boats in the Mediterranean during a series of operations on Saturday by Italian maritime ships, cargo vessels and the Aquarius itself.

Some of the migrants on the overcrowded Aquarius, who are mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, were moved onto to two Italian ships from the navy and coastguard and are headed for the port of Valencia, Spain.

The Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez said he would give the ship "safe harbour" and that he wanted to help avoid a humanitarian emergency.

"We are concerned at Italy authorities' directions given to Aquarius on high seas".

Italy's position, Muscat said, risks "creating a risky situation for all those involved".

Malta wouldn't allow the ship to land saying it was in an area controlled by Italy's and should land there.

Refugees International is dismayed by the Italian government's refusal to allow the SOS Mediteranée and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) ship, the Aquarius, to disembark in Italy.

Italy and Malta showed no sign of backing down despite the United Nations call to immediately allow the boat to dock, describing the situation as "an urgent humanitarian imperative".

A spokesman for the Maltese government told AFP they "have not received communication from Salvini so far", but that "Malta was neither the coordinating nor the competent authority" in the rescue.

The Sea Watch 3 did not have any migrants on board, spokesman Ruben Neugebauer said.

  • Jon Douglas