Italian minister declares victory as Spain accepts refugees and migrants on boat
Matteo Salvini, Italy’s far-right interior minister, has declared victory after a standoff over the fate of 629 people on a humanitarian rescue boat prompted Spain to agree to accept them.
The impasse, after the populist and far-right government in Italy refused to allow the MS Aquarius to dock over the weekend, suggested that Europe could face a humanitarian crisis this summer as it comes to grips with the new Italian government’s hardline approach to refugees and migrants.
Salvini blocked the ship from Italian ports and said it should go to Malta instead. Malta, meanwhile refused to accept the refugees and migrants , saying it had nothing to do with a rescue mission overseen by the Italian coastguard in waters off Libya.
In further comments, Italy’s new interior minister said: "We have opened a front in Brussels. We are contacting the European commission so that it can fulfil its duties towards Italy that have never been respected."
With the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, urging the urgent disembarkation of all 629 people on board the ship, including 100 children, as provisions ran out, Pedro Sanchez, Spain’s new prime minister, gave permission for the MS Aquarius to dock in Valencia. He said his country would welcome those on board.
Italy’s new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, thanked Spain for its “gesture of solidarity”.