Italy and Malta dug in for a second day Monday and refused to let a rescue ship carrying 629 migrants dock in their ports, leaving the boat at sea as a diplomatic standoff escalated under Italy's new anti-immigrant government.
An Italian Coast Guard ship met the Aquarius at sea on Tuesday to take the migrants on board, and it will carry the migrants to Spain.
After urging a quick resolution of the impasse earlier in the day, the United Nations refugee agency, through spokesman Charlie Yaxley, said Sanchez's offer "is a welcome development and a great display of solidarity from Spain with refugees".
But on Tuesday morning, the ship's organizer SOS Mediterranee confirmed that the rescued people will be transferred to Italian ships and sent to Spain.
Spain will welcome a ship with 629 migrants aboard after Italy and Malta refused to let the vessel dock in their ports. The tiny island says it already accepts proportionately more refugees than Italy.More news: USA rejects asylum case in landmark ruling
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"Ships belonging to foreign organisations and flying foreign flags can not dictate Italy's immigration policy", said Salvini, who is also head of the anti-immigrant League.
Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini told Italian media that a second humanitarian ship, the Sea Watch 3, which is now navigating off the Libyan coast, will not be allowed into Italian ports, if and when it is involved in a migrant rescue operation. Malta is in full conformity with global obligations and will not take the vessel in its ports.
'A European issue' Malta and Italy both thanked Spain for stepping up, but maintained their dispute over who was responsible.
"This is not an inhumane act", said Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, in charge of Italy's ports and coastguard.
Dr. David Beversluis, one of the doctors aboard the ship, said there were no medical emergencies aboard but one passenger had to be revived after he was rescued. "I'm very happy for the mayors. and because we have reached the [mayoral] run-off in cities that have always been hard for us", Salvini said. "Plan from MRCC (the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) Rome is that rescued people will later be transferred on Italian ships before heading together to" the eastern Spanish port of Valencia, rescue charity SOS Mediterranee said on Twitter. While he agreed that there should be a more fair distribution of migrants in the European Union, he said Salvini was "making a point at the cost of people in distress".