Spain offers to take in drifting migrant ship Aquarius

Humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee said there were 123 minors on board the Aquarius ship

ROME-Italy's new populist government has denied permission to dock to an aid-group boat ferrying hundreds of migrants rescued off the coast of Libya, following through on a campaign pledge to halt mass migration to Italy and leaving the vessel stranded.

A series of Italian maritime ships, cargo vessels and the Aquarius all helped with the rescue.

"Our sole objective is to bring the people we've rescued, in hard conditions yesterday, to a port of safety, ' the group said in a statement".

It is true, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said only recently, that the rest of the European Union has largely abandoned Italy to deal with large numbers of migrants and refugees. The trip would take four to five days, and with so many people aboard the boat and bad weather making seafaring conditions hard, going to Valencia would be "a insane idea".

"Matteo Salvini, interior minister and leader of the anti-immigrant party the league, posted [on Twitter] under the hashtag "ports closed" 'Italy too says no to human trafficking'".

The standoff marked the first display of Italy's get-tough immigration policy under the right-wing League.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau offered her city's help while criticising other Europeans, saying the crisis over the Aquarius "puts in question" the unity of the EU.

EU rules mean migrants must apply for asylum in the European country where they first arrive, putting pressure on Italy and Greece, the entry points for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia since 2015. "We need to have an idea of what port to go to, something that up to now we haven't had".

Mr. Galietti said it is not known whether the agreement struck with Libya by the last Italian government to slow the flow of migrants will automatically transfer to the new Italian government.

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Migrants are rescued in the Mediterranean sea on June 9, 2018 in a picture released on June 11, 2018 by SOS Mediterranee, before boarding the French NGO's ship Aquarius.

Spain has now offered to take the ship in after Italy and Malta refused.

Aid workers aboard said that food would run out by the end of the day on Monday, The Associated Press reports, and they reported injuries ranging from burns to hypothermia.

Last week, Salvini said Rome should increase its deportations of migrants.

The tiny island nation with fewer than a half a million inhabitants says it already accepts more refugees per capita than Italy, which has taken in more than 600,000 boat migrants since 2014.

Also on Monday, Salvini signaled his intention to prevent a second foreign-flagged search-and-rescue vessel, Sea Watch 3, operated by a group of German volunteers and now positioned off the coast of Libya, from docking.

Salvini has accused migrants of rape, drug-dealing and spreading diseases, and has promised to send 500,000 back to their home countries.

"Victory!" Salvini tweeted after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, a socialist who took office just over a week ago, gave instructions that the ship be allowed to dock in the eastern port of Valencia.

Italy has always been a destination for migrants crossing the Mediterranean and has been dealing with a surge in arrivals in recent years.

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