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The SOS Mediterranee said the migrants were picked up in six separate overnight operations in the central Mediterranean on Saturday.

"If the country has control over the ship and there are migrants in dire straights aboard and no agreement with another state to take them can be found, they should not delay but accept them", Doyle said.

Today's decision of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of Spain to exceptionally allow a rescue ship, Aquarius, to dock in his country is courageous and welcome.

Doctors Without Borders, which has staff aboard the Aquarius, said the rescued migrants were stable for now but that food and water on the ship would run out by Monday night.

While thanking Spain for their offer of help, the Maltese Prime minister said Italy had broken worldwide rules and that there was a need to sit down with European partners to avoid an incident like this from happening again.

Spain has now announced it will allow the boat to dock in the eastern port of Valenica.

"People are in distress, are running out of provisions and need help quickly".

"We call on all involved to contribute to a swift resolution so that the people on board the Aquarius vessel may be safely disembarked as soon as possible". Frontex-rescued migrants must now be delivered to the nearest European Union port rather than to only Italian ports. Salvini campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform that included a vow to expel hundreds of thousands of migrants already in Italy, even though experts doubt such mass deportations are feasible or financially viable.

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

"It's recognition that Italy can't continue to endure this huge burden alone, " Salvini said at a news conference.

"Italy has stopped bowing our heads and obeying".


Muscat said he told Conte "that Malta is acting in full conformity with its global obligations".

The fate of the migrants aboard the Aquarius ship has been the centre of a diplomatic spat between Malta and Italy, with both countries insisting each other should take them in.

"Malta will be sending fresh supplies to the vessel". It added that the Aquarius "is still waiting for definitive instructions regarding the port of safety".

The French organisation said that 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 small children and seven pregnant women are among those brought on board.

The U.N. refugee agency said Monday that there was "an urgent humanitarian imperative" to act, calling on governments to accept the distressed migrants now and resolve "broader issues" later.

"We are talking about people".

Under EU rules migrants must apply for asylum in the European country where they first arrive.

Italy's new government assumes power at a time when nativist populist parties have growing clout in Europe and its anti-immigrant stance will no doubt be welcomed by Hungary's Viktor Orban, whose government is now trying to criminalize people working for groups that assist asylum seekers.

More than 6,00,000 refugees from Africa have reached Italy in the past five years. The island nation has reduced the number of migrants it has taken in over the past decade, from a high of 2,775 in 2008 to just 23 a year ago, according to U.N. statistics.

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.

"Our land has always been one of refuge, I don't know how you can send away 629 human lives".


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