June 11, 2018 / 11:26 AM / 9 months ago

EU tells Italy, Malta to care for migrants stuck at sea

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission urged Italian and Maltese authorities to provide care to more than 600 migrants aboard a ship in the Mediterranean that neither countries wants to accept.

Italy has refused to let a humanitarian ship carrying more than 600 migrants dock at its ports and has asked the Mediterranean island of Malta to open its doors to the vessel. Malta has said it will not take the ship.

“We are talking about people... The priority of both the Italian and Maltese authorities should be ensuring these people receive the care they need,” Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a news conference.

“We call on all involved to contribute to a swift resolution so that the people on board the Aquarius vessel may be safely disembarked as soon as possible,” he continued.

The Commission added that, under international law, it was up to the country coordinating the search and rescue operation - in this case Italy - to pick the port to which the vessel should go.

However, there were certain criteria that needed to be taken into account, including the time that those rescued would spend on board. EU law also stressed that parties involved needed to cooperate.

Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, Philip Blenkinsop

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