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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Barcelona urges Spain to allow migrant ship to dock

Spat ensues between Italy and Malta after both refuse to take in NGO boat

A migrant aboard a rubber dinghy off the Libyan coast is helped by rescuers aboard the Open Arms aid boat, of Proactiva Open Arms Spanish NGO, Saturday, June 30, 2018. 60 migrants were rescued as Italy's right-wing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted: "They can forget about arriving in an Italian port." (AP Photo/Olmo Calvo)
A migrant aboard a rubber dinghy off the Libyan coast is helped by rescuers aboard the Open Arms aid boat, of Proactiva Open Arms Spanish NGO, Saturday, June 30, 2018. 60 migrants were rescued as Italy's right-wing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted: "They can forget about arriving in an Italian port." (AP Photo/Olmo Calvo)

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau is calling on Spain's prime minister to grant the city docking rights to help a Spanish aid boat that rescued 60 migrants in the Mediterranean near Libya.

The Open Arms boat, run by Spanish aid group Proactiva Open Arms, was the cause of a political row Saturday between Italy and Malta, who both rejected taking in the aid boat's migrants.

Mr Colau tweeted that Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez should "save lives" because Barcelona "doesn't want to be an accomplice to the policies of death of Matteo Salvini," referring to Italy's hard-line interior minister.

Mr Salvini, head of an anti-migrant party in the Italian coalition government, has vowed that no more humanitarian groups' rescue boats will dock in Italy.

The Spanish vessel said it rescued the migrants Saturday — including five women, a nine-year-old child and three teenagers — after it spotted a rubber boat patched with duct tape floating in the sea. All the migrants appeared in good health.

"Despite the hurdles, we continue to protect the right to life of invisible people,' said Open Arms.

Mr Salvini quickly declared that the rescue boat "can forget about arriving in an Italian port" and claimed the boat should go to Malta, the nearest port.

But Malta swiftly pushed back, with its interior minister contending that the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily, was closer to the boat.

Earlier this month, Rome rejected the Aquarius ship carrying 630 migrants, forcing it to eventually dock in Spain.

"For women and children really fleeing the war the doors are open, for everyone else they are not!" Mr Salvini tweeted.

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Read more:

Libya migrant shipwreck: Three babies dead and 100 missing

Migrant rescue ship in limbo as EU nations argue over deal

France and Germany seek migration solutions as rescue ships left adrift

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