Migrants on stranded vessel to be taken to Spain

The humanitarian ship Aquarius currently 43 nautical miles off Malta's coast carrying 629 migrants

The Aquarius ship picked up the migrants, including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and seven pregnant women, from inflatable boats off the coast of Libya during the weekend.

"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", Mr Schinas said.

"Supplies will be received shortly from an Italian vessel on to Aquarius".

Everyone is exhausted, and the daily fight for a sleeping spot on deck is creating friction among this large group of people stuck together in a reduced space: the Aquarius is 77 meters long and made for holding no more than 550 migrants for two to three days.

Pictures issued by SOS Mediterranee showed hundreds of Africans huddled aboard, including a young girl wrapped in a blanket in the arms of a rescue worker.

"[MSF] welcomes this gesture of humanity but it would require four more days at sea in a boat already over maximum capacity and in deteriorating weather conditions", the organisation said in a tweet.

Malta is insisting its stand is in line with its global obligations that state any rescued people should be taken to the closest, safest port of call.

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

The head of the French charity which charters the Aquarius migrant rescue ship said Tuesday that it would continue its operations despite the global standoff over the 629 people now onboard. "The island can not continue looking the other way when it comes to respecting global conventions", read the Italian government's statement signed by Salvini and Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli.

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Salvini's comments came after another spat with Malta following its reported refusal to come to the aid of another rescue ship Seefuchs, which was stranded with 126 migrants on board due to violent seas until it was allowed to dock in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo on Saturday.

"Why do 629 people on Aquarius still have to suffer?" "All a political stunt.at the expense of people in distress?"

Italy is the main entry for migrants crossing from North Africa to Europe.

The far-right League scored its best-ever result in March national elections and has formed a coalition government with the anti-system 5-Star Movement.

Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini - who is also Deputy Prime Minister - has promised to deport hundreds of thousands of economic migrants, warning that Italy would not be "Europe's refugee camp".

On Monday afternoon, Spain offered to allow the migrant-rescue ship to dock at the port of Valencia "to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe, " though it remained unclear whether or not the ship was able to make the journey to Valencia.

Two Italian boats have been instructed to help the Aquarius take the migrants to Spain, according to aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres. Italy shouldn't have to shoulder the burden by itself, he added, when other European countries aren't doing their fair share. And we can see that Corsica is not the closest or the safest.

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.

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