Since Italy's navy had coordinated the initial rescue effort, and even transferred some of the migrants its own navy had saved to the rescue ship staffed by volunteer aid workers, it was obliged by global law to ensure their safety.
He also complained, on Facebook that: "Malta takes in nobody. We need to have an idea of what port to go to, something that up to now we haven't had", Aquarius crew member Alessandro Porro told Sky TG24 on Sunday.
Meanwhile, hundreds of the migrants aboard the Aquarius were being transferred late Tuesday to two ships operated by the Italian navy and coast guard, which will accompany the rescue ship to the Spanish port of Valencia some 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away, a journey of some three to four days.
Malta has accused Italy of violating global norms by instructing a migrant rescue ship with 629 people aboard to stay at sea while a diplomatic standoff plays out over where it can dock.
The Sea Watch met the Trenton and was asked to pick up the survivors and bodies, but the group refused to bring them on board without a written guarantee from Italy. "France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons".
Malta has always refused large numbers of migrants to dock at its ports, saying it already accepts more refugees per capita than Italy.
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But Italy can not simply expel hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants without severe repression, and Italy doesn't yet have the agreements with many key countries of origin needed to facilitate returns.
Under worldwide law, people rescued at sea should be brought to the nearest and safest port for assistance.
Fresh provisions including 950 bottles of water, 800 boxes of noodles and snacks, blankets, hats and socks were delivered to the Aquarius on Tuesday, SOS Mediterranee said.
"Italy can not accept hypocritical lessons from countries that have always preferred to turn their backs when it comes to immigration", Conte said in a statement.
The far-right League scored its best-ever result in March national elections and has formed a coalition government with the anti-system 5-Star Movement. The ship has 629 migrants including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and six pregnant women.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which is operating the Aquarius alongside SOS Mediterranne, urged Rome to drop plans for the lengthy trip to Spain for its migrant passengers.
But the charity's missions will continue "as long as there are people drowning in the Mediterranean, as long as we have the resources, and as long as we are able to act and we are not kicked out of the area", she said.
Regarding the planned voyage to Spain, Vimad, who is on board the ship, told Euronews: "This is not what we wish, it's overcrowded. people are weak, tired, exhausted".