12:41 GMT20 September 2020
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Malta’s ports will not take in the Acquarius vessel with hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers on board, which has been stranded in the Mediterranean since Italian authorities refused to accept it, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Monday.

    "I took a call from Italy PM Giuseppe Conte to discuss the Acquarius issue. Malta is in full conformity with international obligations & will not take the vessel in its ports. We will continue, where possible, carrying out individual & humanitarian emergency medical evacuations," Muscat wrote on Twitter.

    The Maltese prime minister also expressed concern over the Italian authorities’ directions given to the Aquarius vessel, adding that such policies contradicted international norms, and might lead to dangerous developments.

    READ MORE: Italy Says No to Being EU's 'Refugee Camp' Amid Soros' Calls to Compensate Rome

    The rescuers say those on board the Acquarius include 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children, and seven pregnant women. Under international law, people rescued at sea should be brought to the nearest and safest port for assistance.

    Maltese authorities have been insisting that since the rescue happened in the Libyan search and rescue area and was coordinated from Rome, that Valletta is neither the coordinating authority nor has the competence to settle this issue, therefore it would not take in the migrants and asylum seekers.

    Local media have been suggesting that by instructing the Acquarius to stay in its current position in deep waters, new Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has been criticizing NGOs for carrying out the role of taxis for migrants, has started implementing anti-migrant policies.

    Since Friday, the German branch of the SOS Mediterranee NGO has been rescuing migrants and asylum seekers in the Mediterranean and taking them on board the Acquarius. The vessel, now carrying 629 people, was ordered by the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center late on Sunday to remain 35 nautical miles from Italy and 27 nautical miles from Malta.


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