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Spain to take in drifting migrant ship Aquarius

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The migrants being rescued

A total 629 migrants - including pregnant women and scores of children - are now crammed on to the Aquarius ship after being rescued off the Libyan coast on Saturday and Sunday.

Migrants on board the rescue vessel Aquarius are unaware of the ongoing diplomatic standoff between Malta and Italy over where they should disembark, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said his country had "asked for a gesture of solidarity from Europe and this gesture has been made". "Italy is done bowing its head and obeying". "This time we say no".

Spain will welcome a ship with 629 migrants aboard after Italy and Malta refused to let the vessel dock in their ports.

Malta and Italy thanked Spain for stepping up, but maintained their dispute over who was responsible.

Salvini tried to defuse tensions and in a tweet said that "Spain wants to denounce us, France says that I'm 'nauseating.' I want to work calmly with everybody but with a principal: #firsttheitalians".

Italy has long demanded that the European Union change its migration policy and makes good on promises to accept more refugees, saying that Italy has been left alone to co-ordinate rescues and accept tens of thousands of migrants a year for asylum processing.

Migrants stand shoulder to shoulder aboard SOS Mediterranee's Aquarius ship in the Mediterranean Sea in an image released on Monday.

Muscat tweeted his thanks to Sanchez "for agreeing to accept the Aquarius after Italy violated worldwide law and caused an impasse".

Earlier in the day, the Maltese government also refused to accept migrants from the Acquarius.

Malta's government replied saying Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had spoken to Italian premier Giuseppe Conte and underlined "that Malta is acting in full conformity with its worldwide obligations". "Malta will be sending fresh supplies to the vessel". We will have to sit down and discuss how to prevent this from happening again.

Days after assuming office, Mr Salvini issued a warning to people smugglers in a statement that drew direct comparisons with former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott's "stop the boats" rhetoric.

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Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, which is operating the Aquarius alongside SOS Mediterranne, urged a rethink.

"People are in distress, are running out of provisions and need help quickly", the United Nations refugee agency had said, urging governments to set aside political considerations.

SOS Mediterranee director general Sophie Beau said Spain's offer "is encouraging and shows that some states are sensitive to the humanitarian emergency".

Mayor Filippo Nogarin - a member of the Five Star Movement (M5S), the anti-establishment party now governing Italy in coalition with the nationalist League - had said that he was ready to "open the port of Livorno and take in the ship Aquarius with its cargo of 629 human lives".

In a Facebook post dated April 21 previous year, M5S leader Luigi Di Maio called boats carrying stranded migrants to Italy a "sea taxi", claiming they were conducting services they said were charitable in exchange for money.

"Naples is ready, without funds, to save lives", he said.

"We are talking about people. The priority of both the Italian and Maltese authorities should be ensuring these people receive the care they need", European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.

"Turning this into a political weapon is despicable.it is clear that Europe must act more wisely, but we can not let these people die at sea".

"The island can't continue to turn the other way", the ministers said.

"This is not an inhumane act", said Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, in charge of Italy's ports and coastguard. "They manifestly go against global rules, and risk creating a risky situation for all those involved", Muscat said.

Spain offered on Monday to take in a humanitarian ship stranded in worldwide waters with 629 migrants aboard, prompting Italy's new anti-establishment government to claim victory in its bid to get European partners to help more on immigration.

An Italian official says the country will turn away a boat full of more than 600 migrants from its shores and direct them to Malta instead.

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