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>> A rescue boat carrying more than 600 migrants is stranded in the Mediterranean after being refused entry to Italy's ports. New interior minister Matteo Salvini instead asked Malta to take the Aquarius in but his request was brushed off. Malta says it has nothing to do with the rescue operation which took place in international waters, opening the prospect of a diplomatic rift between the two European Union allies.
The Aquarius, operated by European charity, SOS Mediterranee, has 629 migrants on board after six different rescue operations off the coast of Libya. Salvini, the head of the far-right league, has accused such charities of acting as a quote, taxi service. His move represents an opening gambit to make good on electoral promises regarding immigration.
He campaigned on halting the flow of migrants into the country. More than 600,000 have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years. Numbers have dropped dramatically in recent months, but rescues have increased in the last few days, presenting Salvini with his first test as minister.
However, he doesn't hold authority over the ports and it wasn't immediately clear if his line would hold. The mayor of Naples who has repeatedly clashed with the league leader said he would welcome in the humanitarian boat.