Italy says Britain should take in 141 rescued migrants

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Rescue ship the Aquarius has been stranded at sea after operations to save the group, which includes 67 unaccompanied minors and is mainly made up of Somalis and Eritreans, on Friday.

They also said that rescued migrants "told our teams that they encountered five different ships which did not offer them assistance before they were rescued by Aquarius".

Due to pressure from Italy and Malta, most charity ships are no longer patrolling off the coast of Libya.

Italy has repeatedly refused rescue ships entry to its ports.

Italy continues to refuse port to humanitarian rescue ships, and the country's transport minister, Danilo Toninelli, said on Twitter that Britain should take responsibility for the migrants aboard the Aquarius because it sails under the flag of the British territory of Gibraltar.

Adding: "Stop human traffickers and their accomplices, #closedports and #openhearts".

Italian transport minister Danilo Toninelli claimed the United Kingdom is responsible for the migrants on board as the rescue ship that picked them up is sailing under the flag of the British territory.

She said "it could of course be the case that in theory a flag state of a rescue ship could be considered a potential location for disembarkation, but this might not be possible in practice".

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During both rescue operations, Aquarius informed all relevant authorities of its activities, including the Italian, Maltese, and Tunisian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCs), as well as the Libyan Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) which stated it was the coordinating authority for the rescues. Picture taken August 12, 2018.

He wrote on Twitter that the "Aquarius, with its cargo of illegal immigrants, certainly will not arrive in an Italian port".

The European Commission is in touch with several EU states and trying to help resolve the "incident" with the Aquarius, a spokesman in Brussels said.

The French presidency said yesterday that it was in touch with the other European Union nations on the Mediterranean to "rapidly" find a port where the Aquarius can dock, while stressing that worldwide maritime law states that the boat should be able to dock in the port that is closest.

"Malta was neither the coordinating nor the competent authority (and).the requests for the vessel to enter our ports are unwarranted and without legal standing", it said in a statement.

On Monday morning, during a routine border patrol, the armed forces sighted a rubber dinghy in difficulty, it said.

In June, the Aquarius ended up taking some 630 migrants to Spain, which welcomed it, but the hard line policy has thrust immigration back onto the European agenda. But on Monday, a government spokeswoman in Madrid said: "Spain is not the safest port because it is not the nearest one" for the ship to dock.

Libyan maritime authorities, MSF said, had informed the ship's crew that it must find somewhere else to disembark the migrants.