Earlier on Thursday, the Dutch-flagged German ship Lifeline, owned by the charity of the same name, was refused entry to Rome’s ports as the debate over the current migrant crisis in the EU raged on.
Spain had been in contact with Malta to offer humanitarian help with the ship, carrying more than 200 rescued migrants.
However, Italy revealed Malta had refused their request take in the Mission Lifeline ship, a government spokeswoman said on Friday.
It comes just one day after Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said the vessel should take the mirgants to The Netherlands.
Their calls follow the country’s new coaltion government applying pressure on European partners to shoulder more of the burden of immigration from North Africa.
But Malta, who refused safe passage to LifeLine, claims it had not received a call for help from the ship, or from Italy’s coastguard, Maltese government sources said.
Italy – who has turned away two migrant ships in the past month, including the Aquarius vessel containing 650 mirgants – called Malta’s actions “absurd” and “inhumane”.
Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli took to Facebook to make the comments and posted a photo of an email from the Maltese Armed Forces saying the “Lifeline” was not in an SAR (Search and Rescue) situation.
He said: “Malta cannot back out,” and stated that Frontex, the EU’s border control agency “will make an official request to Malta to open its ports.”
The Maltese email also said the ship “has not manifested any distress”.
On Thursday, Toninelli had claimied the Italian coastguard would pick up the 224 migrants, including 14 women and four small children, from Lifeline because it was too dangerous for the 32-metre vessel to travel to the Netherlands with so many on board.
The news comes after far-right Interior Minister and Lega leader Matteo Salvini struck out at non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) and “do-gooders” and shut down Rome’s harbours to the ship.
Italy has threatened to boycott Sunday’s emergency EU mini-summit on immigration, which was called after the German Chancellor was given a two week deadline to change policies.
Mrs Merkel asked for extra money from EU nations to deal with the crisis.
Italy previously said they would refuse to sign any joint statement after a draft text of the budget was released ahead of the meeting, insisting they did not want to send more money to the EU.
But on Friday, a proudly defiant Rome, which shut its borders to refugees amid anger over the EU’s open migration policy, confirmed they will join other nations at the summit, including France, United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria Greece, Malta and the Netherlands.
More to follow.
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