Italy acting with 'cynicism' towards migrant ship - French govt spokesman

Migrants remain at sea as Italy-Malta standoff intensifies

Migrants remain at sea as Italy-Malta standoff intensifies

A rescue ship carrying more than 600 migrants will be allowed to enter the Spanish port of Valencia, after it was turned away from ports in Italy and Malta.

While Spain's willingness to take in the Aquarius has surprised many observers, for the new Spanish government "it does make political sense for several reasons" says the BBC's Guy Hedgecoe.

"This plan would mean already exhausted rescued people would endure 4 more days travel at sea", Doctors Without Borders said on Twitter. It came just after a fatal day in the Mediterranean, with at least 112 people estimated drowned when a boat that departed from the Tunisian coast sank at sea, and nine people, including six children, died in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece.

"The better option would be to disembark the rescued people in the nearest port after which they can be transferred to [Spain] or other safe countries for further care & legal processing".

Italy's refusal to take in the migrants is the first sign of the new government's hardened stance on immigration.

Even as he drew his line, an Italian coast guard vessel with 936 migrants and two migrants' bodies on board was headed toward Catania, Sicily, where it was expected to dock on Tuesday evening, Italian news agency ANSA said.

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.

Many were transferred from the overcrowded Aquarius, operated by aid group SOS Méditerranée, to an Italian navy warship and a coastguard vessel. All were rescued Saturday night - about 50 from the sea and the rest from Libyan coast -in guard dinghies.

In the meantime, some in Italy have offered to take in the migrants, with the mayor of Taranto, Rinaldo Melucci, saying that the southern port city was "ready to embrace every life in danger".

In comments to Italian journalists, Italy's Home Affairs minister Matteo Salvini accused Malta of acting "irresponsible".

Migrants stand shoulder to shoulder aboard SOS Mediterranee's Aquarius ship in the Mediterranean Sea in an image released on Monday.

"There is a degree of cynicism and irresponsibility in the Italian government's behaviour with regard to this dramatic humanitarian situation", government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux quoted Macron as telling his cabinet.

SOS Mediteranee has always dropped its passengers off on Italian shores, adding to an influx of 700,000 migrants from Africa the country has had to deal with since 2013. Migrant flows into Italy continue, albeit at a slower rate, and migrant departures from Italy to other European nations proceed at a relatively slow pace due to EU asylum policies.

Meanwhile in Rome, hundreds of people gathered at a demonstration in protest of their government's decision to stop the Aquarius from docking.

Macron has faced criticism from some leftist opposition parties and members of his own Republic on the Move party for not offering to take in the 600 people on board the Aquarius.

"Denying disembarkation to desperate people rescued at sea can not be considered as a victory: it is the wrong response to the lack of responsibility and burden sharing between member states", said Aloys Vimard, MSF's project coordinator on board Aquarius.

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