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  • Salvini has repeatedly closed the Italian ports to humanitarian vessels.

    Salvini has repeatedly closed the Italian ports to humanitarian vessels. | Photo: EFE File

Published 5 April 2019

Malta has also denied access to the migrants stranded on German rescue vessel Alan Kurdi.

Italy’s right-wing Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini refuses to allow a German rescue vessel battling rough seas with some 64 migrants aboard to dock, saying it should “go to Hamburg.”

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“We are currently in contact with the German authorities, looking for a solution. We are heading to Lampedusa to avoid bad weather in Malta,” according to a Reuters report which cites a member of a non-governmental organization.

German charity Sea-Eye operates the Alan Kurdi vessel which undertook the dangerous Mediterranean Sea rescue mission off the coast of Libya Wednesday.

“The Alan Kurdi is looking for a safe haven for 64 rescued people. It’s raining. The wind is getting stronger. The captain has decided to bring all people below deck,” Sea-Eye wrote on Twitter. Sea-Eye explained that the vessel only rescued the migrants after the Libyan coastguard failed to respond to a distress call.

There are 12 women, an 11-month-old girl and a 6-year-old boy among the group of migrants that is now stranded near Italian island Lampedusa. Another 50 people are reportedly missing.

“I asked the German interior minister to intervene over a ship that says it is German, and to fix this issue,” controversial minister Salvini told reporters during a G7 interior ministers’ summit Thursday in Paris.

The Italian ministry wrote to the German embassy in Rome to officially deny the ship entry into Italian waters. Malta has also denied access to the migrants.

Migrant arrivals to Italy have dropped since Salvini took office in June, with 532 migrants, so far this year, down 92 percent on the same period in 2018 and down 98 percent on 2017.

“I am not the only one who has doubts about the role of NGOs in the Mediterranean. They are a problem and they help human trafficking,” Salvini said, alluding to other ministers attending the G7 gathering.

Salvini, who also doubles as interior minister, has repeatedly closed the Italian ports to humanitarian vessels.

The boats are often forced to return the migrants to Libya, where they face human trafficking, kidnap, torture and rape, according to the United Nations and a number of other aid groups.

The Alan Kurdi vessel is named after a two-year-old Kurdish boy who drowned in 2015 as he and his family fled war in Syria.

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