What rules apply to migrants rescued at sea?

What rules apply to migrants rescued at sea?

The UNHCR says migrants aboard the rescue ship Aquarius are in distress, running out of provision and urgently in need of help.

A ship with 629 migrants on board remains stranded between Malta and Sicily as the crew called off a planned trip to Spain after deeming the journey too risky.

On Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte asked Malta to take the African migrants aboard the Aquarius, but Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat rejected the request, arguing his country had no obligation under worldwide law to accept them.

He said Malta should accept the Aquarius, but the government in Valletta said those rescued fall under Italy's jurisdiction as they were picked up the migrants in Libyan waters.

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

Italy quickly thanked Spain's new Socialist prime minister for the offer to receive aid group SOS Mediterranee's ship at the port of Valencia and announced that it had forced a turning point in Europe's migrant crisis.

"Starting today Italy will begin to say NO to human trafficking, NO to the business of illegal immigration", Salvini wrote in a Facebook post.

Mr. Salvini and leaders of the previous government complained that the European Union was casting Italy adrift by doing little to ease Italy's migrant burden.

"We would need a resupply at sea which is not so easy to organize so we urge Italy to find a solution very soon close to our position", he told The Associated Press in Paris.

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Rescue at sea is regulated by global law, which "is clear on the fact that any shipmaster has the obligation to provide assistance to persons in distress at sea", said Dr. Sarah Wolff, a lecturer in Public Policy at Queen Mary University, London.

Italy's new interior minister Matteo Salvini has called on Malta to open its border.

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 previous year, according to UN statistics.

Matteo Salvini, Italy's Interior Minister and Northern League party leader made a decision to refuse docking to "Aquarius" and redirect the vessel to the Island of Malta, apparently in line with his election promises.

Around the same time, Spain's new Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, said his country would welcome the Aquarius.

"Evidently raising your voice, something Italy did not do for years, pays", Salvini said. 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". But Italy can not simply expel hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants without severe repression, and Italy doesn't yet have the agreements with many key countries of origin needed to facilitate returns.

Police questioned the boat's captain for more than four hours, according to Sea-Watch - the NGO that operates the vessel - and journalists aboard were asked to hand over video footage of the June 5 rescue operation.

The Maltese prime minister also expressed concern over the Italian authorities' directions given to the Acquarius vessel, adding that such policies contradicted worldwide norms, and might lead to risky developments. Their number included 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and seven pregnant women.

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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