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As the SOS Mediterranee rescue ship, MV Aquarius remains stranded between Malta and Sicily with 629 people aboard including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and seven pregnant women, Elisa De Pieri, Amnesty International’s Italy Researcher said:

“By closing their ports, Italy and Malta have not only turned their backs on more than 600 desperate and vulnerable people but also on their obligations under international law.

“The men, women and children aboard the Aquarius have risked their lives on perilous seas to escape horrific abuses in Libya only to find themselves caught in an unconscionable political stand-off between two European states.

“Keeping NGO boats at sea waiting for a port means that fewer rescue ships are available to assist people who may be in distress right now.

“While Italy and Malta must open their ports, other EU countries must share the responsibility for offering protection, rescues and asylum-processing.”