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Italy has demanded Britain take in 141 migrants rescued by a ship that flies under the flag of Gibraltar.

The Aquarius, run by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders (MSF), picked up the people in two separate operations on Friday and is now in worldwide waters between Italy and Malta. More than 600,000 have reached Italian shores in the past four years.

Spain offered the ship safe port in June, when Italy and Malta denied entry.

Italy's new right-wing populist interior minister Matteo Salvini, who campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform, is making good on his election promise by forbidding NGO ships carrying refugees to dock in Italy's ports. "Stop human traffickers and their accomplices". "At this point, the United Kingdom should take responsibility for the safeguarding of the shipwrecked", Toninelli said on Twitter.

The British foreign office was not immediately available for comment.

EU Commission spokeswoman Tove Ernst said in Brussels that the commission is in touch with member states to find a solution, but she couldn't say how many states were involved in the talks since the situation is changing.

The spokesperson added that while Britain could theoretically be considered as a destination port, it was not practically feasible to bring the ship there.

The Aquarius, which was left stranded with 630 migrants on board in June after being turned away by Rome and Valletta, resumed rescue operations off the Libyan coast last week. Malta says it can't handle large numbers of migrants.

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A ship carrying almost 150 migrants who were rescued in Mediterranean Sea is searching for a place to dock, after being denied entry to ports in Malta and Italy, its owners said.

The humanitarian groups said the Aquarius is adrift between Italy and Malta, and awaiting instructions.

Though departures from Libya have fallen dramatically this year, people smugglers are still pushing some boats out to sea and an estimated 720 people died in June and July when charity ships were mainly absent, Amnesty International estimates.

114 migrants, including men, women, and children, were spotted in difficulty 53 nautical miles south of Malta.

The Libyan JRCC informed the Aquarius that it would not provide a place of safety and instructed Aquarius to request a place of safety from another coordination centre.

And even though the different teams are calling for all European governments to help with this rescue, "the preferred option is to receive a place that is much closer, so that the boat could disembark quickly", and then aid could be provided to people that require humanitarian assistance, Rizzo explained.

The tiny European Union island nation of Malta says it can't handle large numbers of migrants.


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