Why Italy has closed its ports to a migrant rescue ship

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Given that Italy's decision to close their ports was the first strong-man move from anti-immigration Home Affairs Minister and Leader of the League (LEGA), one of the two parties of the ruling coalition, and the murky waters surrounding global obligations, it would appear that the stalemate may continue.

A private rescue ship carrying 629 migrants remained at sea Sunday evening after more than a day of not receiving permission to dock in either Italy or the small Mediterranean island nation of Malta.

Salvini, in a joint statement with Italian coastguard minister Danilo Toninelli, insisted that Malta "cannot continue to look the other way when it comes to respecting precise worldwide conventions on the protection of human life".

The migrants were rescued by SOS Mediterranee's vessel Aquarius in six separate night-time operations in the central Mediterranean on Saturday.

The move by Italy's new Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, who is also head of the far-right League, represents an opening gambit to make good on his electoral promises to halt the flow of asylum seekers into the country.

Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat said: "The Italian government is breaching worldwide rules and, with its attitude, is risking to create a situation that would be unsafe to everyone".

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He said Malta would be sending fresh supplies to the vessel.

Malta is in full conformity with worldwide obligations and will not take the vessel in its ports.

The standoff marked the first display of Italy's get-tough immigration policy under the right-wing, xenophobic League.

Salvini pointed to Malta's unwillingness in accusing Europe as a whole of leaving Italy on its own to deal with the refugee crisis.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Monday that "the priority of both the Italian and Maltese authorities should be ensuring these people receive the care they need". "The people we saved were in a hard condition, at least 50 were at risk of drowning", he added.

The rescuers say those on board Acquarius include 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children, and 7 pregnant women.

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More than 600,000 migrants have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years.

Naples is "ready, without funds, to save human lives", the mayor of Naples tweeted, calling Salvini a "heartless minister".

Under the worldwide law, people rescued in the sea should be brought to the closest and safest port for assistance.

They explained that Valletta had no responsibility over the people aboard of Aquarius as they had been saved by Italian Navy in Libyan waters.

We have always welcomed rescue boats and vessels who saved lives at sea.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday called for an EU-wide border protection force, as well as joint asylum authority and collective standards for granting or refusing applications for protection.

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One said: "Rome is seeking a diplomatic incident".

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