Italy Demands UK Take 140 Illegals Picked up by NGO Boat

Migrants picked up the Doctors Without Borders Sea boat the Aquarius. 141 were rescued and are now being refused permission to dock in Italy and Malta. Pic Guglielmo Mangiapane SOS Mediterranee

"At this point, the United Kingdom should assume its responsibility to safeguard the castaways", Mr Toninelli said.

She added: "We are now in contact with a number of member states and stand ready to lend our full and swift diplomatic support to resolve this situation".

On Monday, Malta's armed forces said that it rescued 114 migrants from a rubber dinghy taking on water 53 nautical miles south of the Mediterranean island.

On Friday the group's chartered ship Aquarius, which it operates in partnership with Doctors Without Borders, rescued 141 people in waters off Libya.

The vessel is carrying 141 migrants aboard, and questions about its destination have been raised in the global media, after Italy and Malta denied it entry.

In June, the orange-hulled Aquarius picked up 629 migrants, including scores of children and seven pregnant women, but first Italy and then Malta refused to let it dock, provoking a row within the heart of the European Union over immigration policy. Of these, 25 were found adrift on a small wooden boat that had no motor and was believed to have been at sea for about 35 hours, the group said.

Malta said it had no legal obligation to berth the ship and Spain said its ports were not the safest destination.

They are all said to be in a "stable" condition. The other 116 people, including 67 unaccompanied minors, were rescued later that day, it said.

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"What is of utmost importance is that the survivors are brought to a place of safety without delay, where their basic needs can be met and where they can be protected from abuse", the group quoted Nick Romaniuk, its search and rescue coordinator as saying.

One of the smugglers' boats, a small wooden craft with 25 migrants, appears to have been at sea for almost 35 hours, the groups said.

Since June, Italy's new far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has regularly turned away rescue ships operated by foreign NGOs, accusing them of playing into the hands of people smugglers.

A ship carrying almost 150 migrants who were rescued in Mediterranean Sea is searching for a place to dock, after being denied entry to ports in Malta and Italy, its owners said.

On Monday SOS Mediterranee said it had reached a standby position "exactly between Malta and Italy and awaits to be assigned a place of safety".

"Policies created to prevent people from reaching Europe at all costs are resulting in more suffering and forcing those who are already vulnerable to take even riskier journeys to safety".

Protracted feuds between EU states over how to handle immigrants have thrown the issue back onto the European agenda.

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