Spain has offered to take in a ship stranded in the Mediterranean with 629 refugees aboard after Italy and Malta refused to let the vessel dock, as an NGO raised fears for their safety due to deteriorating weather conditions.
According to Press TV, aid workers warned that fresh food and drink supplied by the Maltese navy to the Aquarius on Monday would only last until Tuesday.
The refugees, including pregnant women and scores of children, were saved by French charity SOS Mediterranee on Saturday.
“This mobilization is a very positive signal although reaching Spain would require several days of sailing. With so many people on board under deteriorating weather conditions could become critical,” the NGO said on Twitter late Monday.
“Safety of all rescued people should remain the priority before all.”
Malta and the new populist government in Italy both refused to take the refugees in, accusing each other of failing to meet their obligations.
The refusal to accept the Aquarius in Italy was the first major anti-refugee move since far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini took office this month.
Salvini tweeted “VICTORY” after two days of confrontation with Malta over the refugees ended with Spain’s offer of help.
The new Spanish administration headed by Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez agreed to allow the Aquarius to dock at its eastern port of Valencia, insisting that it was an “obligation” to do so.
But Spain’s new Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell, said the gesture was also intended to underline the need for solidarity from the entire bloc.
“Italy has received an enormous influx of migrants and so far other European countries haven’t shown much solidarity,” Borrell told a news briefing in Madrid.
There was, he said, a “need for Europeans… to face up, in a united and coordinated manner, to a problem that is a problem for all, and not just for Greece one year and for Italy the next”.
SOS Mediterranee Director General Sophie Beau earlier warned that the ship would have to travel some 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) to reach the Spanish coast — which AFP estimates could take at least four days — and that by Tuesday “there will be no more food (on board) apart from energy biscuits”.
“The Aquarius has just received a resupply of 950 bottles of water, 800 packs of noodles and snacks from a vessel of the Maltese navy,” the SOS Mediterranee tweeted Monday, adding that this would only allow for one more meal on Tuesday.
Malta and Italy thanked Spain for stepping up, but maintained their dispute over who was responsible.