A charity vessel carrying 107 rescued migrants and stuck in limbo off Italy has rejected an offer to go to Spain as “absolutely unrealistic” because of the “humanitarian emergency” on board.
Spain had offered to take in the Proactiva Open Arms ship anchored off the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, slamming Italy”s “inconceivable” refusal to allow it to dock after 17 days at sea.
Italy”s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, has refused to allow migrant rescue vessels to dock as part of his hardline policies.
Proactiva Open Arms spokeswoman Laura Lanuza said on Sunday it was “absolutely unrealistic” to spend five days going to the port that Spain had offered, Algeciras, near Gibraltar.
Late Sunday, government sources in Madrid told AFP that the ship could go to “the closest Spanish port en route to (Spain”s) territorial waters”, which could be the Balearic Islands.
The sources said they had not yet received an answer from the charity.
The Open Arms standoff with Italian authorities was the latest between Rome and charity vessels rescuing migrants — mainly sub-Saharan Africans — making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.
The Open Arms organisation said Madrid had taken the decision because of the “untenable” situation for the 107 migrants still aboard, including two children.
Salvini, who leads the anti-immigrant League party, has taken a hardline against rescued migrants coming to Italy which he says bears an unfair burden as the first port of call.
Riding high on his policy”s popularity, Salvini has plunged the Italian government into crisis by calling for fresh elections and to bring down his League party”s coaltion with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).