450 migrants stranded at sea as Italy, Malta dig heels in

Migrants intercepted aboard a dinghies off the coast in the Strait of Gibraltar, are seen after arriving on a rescue boat at the port of Tarifa, southern Spain July 13, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 July 2018
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450 migrants stranded at sea as Italy, Malta dig heels in

  • The Italian coast guard vessel Diciotti arrived in the port of Trapani, in western Sicily, on Thursday, but the migrants were kept aboard
  • Salvini insists that the Libyan coast guard deal with migrants in waters off the largely lawless North African country

ROME: Another 450 migrants on board two Frontex vessels were stranded at sea on Saturday as Italy and Malta locked horns over whose responsibility it was to offer them safe harbor.
The migrants had initially set sail from Libya in a single wooden vessel which was identified early Friday while passing through waters under Malta’s jurisdiction.
But Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has authority over the country’s ports, on Friday refused to let them dock in his latest show of intransigence over migrants stranded at sea.
And on Saturday, as those on board were transferred to two vessels belonging to the EU border agency Frontex, he insisted they be instructed to “head south, to Libya or Malta.”
“We need an act of justice, of respect and of courage to fight against these human traffickers and generate a European intervention,” he said in talks with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, his remarks carried by Italian news agencies.
Cited by the Italian media, cabinet sources said Conte was going to push for them to be immediately transferred to other European countries, otherwise they would not be allowed to land.
In an exchange of messages, emails and phone calls on Friday, Rome had tried to push Valetta to take responsibility for those on board the wooden boat.
But Malta said the ship was much closer to the Italian island of Lampedusa, and on Saturday, insisted it had respected “all of its obligations under international conventions” concerning those rescued at sea.
On Saturday morning, as the two Frontex vessels approached the wooden boat, several migrants threw themselves overboard, prompting immediate efforts to rescue them from the water, Italian sources said.
Eight women and children were taken to Lampedusa for medical treatment.
The new standoff kicked in just hours after 67 migrants were allowed to disembark from an Italian coast guard ship in Sicily late on Thursday.
Salvini, who took office when Italy’s new populist government came to power on June 1, wants to block any further migrant arrivals by boat and has banned charity rescue ships from docking in Italian ports, accusing them of aiding human traffickers.
Last month, the French rescue ship Aquarius and the German boat Lifeline, who between them were carrying hundreds of migrants, were forced to divert to Spain and Malta respectively after Italy turned them away.
Italy, Greece and Spain have been on the front line of the migrant crisis, with Europe deeply divided over how to share the burden of the massive influx of people seeking to create a new life in Europe.


Spokesman says Pakistan’s ex-PM jail conditions deplorable

Updated 17 min 2 sec ago
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Spokesman says Pakistan’s ex-PM jail conditions deplorable

  • Analysts say cricket star and opposition candidate Imran Khan enjoys the backing of military, which has ruled Pakistan directly and indirectly for most of its 71-year history.
  • The spokesman for the Pakistan Muslim League party said the party will win the vote if the elections are not rigged.

ISLAMABAD: A spokesman for the political party of Pakistan’s jailed ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says the former leader is being held in deplorable conditions as he awaits the outcome of his appeal over a 10-year sentence on corruption charges.
Pervaiz Rashid, of the Pakistan Muslim League, says he visited Sharif in jail on Thursday.
His statement comes amid increasing political tensions ahead of Pakistan’s parliamentary elections next week.
Analysts say cricket star and opposition candidate Imran Khan enjoys the backing of military, which has ruled Pakistan directly and indirectly for most of its 71-year history.
Rashid says the Pakistan Muslim League party will win the vote if the elections are not rigged.
Sharif, who was ousted from office by the country’s Supreme Court last July, faces several trials on corruption charges.