Sea Watch, a Germany based non-governmental organization that attempts to aid migrants journeying to Europe, issued a series of tweets saying its vessel was responding to the situation, which the organization said took place 20 miles off the coast of Libya.
Malta on Sunday reiterated its refusal to accept the ship, ignoring calls from Rome.
Italy's hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini, in a joint statement with Danilo Toninelli, minister in charge of the Italian coastguard, insisted that Malta "cannot continue to look the other way when it comes to respecting precise worldwide conventions on the protection of human life". Salvini had earlier issued a joint statement with Italian Transportation Minister Danilo Toninelli of the 5-Star Movement, saying Malta "cannot continue to look the other way when it comes to respecting precise worldwide conventions on the protection of human life".
Beau said her charity, based in the southern French port city of Marseille, was acting under global law in giving "assistance to people in distress". "Italy is done bowing its head and obeying".
"Denying disembarkation to desperate people rescued at sea can not be considered as a victory: it is the wrong response to the lack of responsibility and burden sharing between member states", said Aloys Vimard, MSF's project coordinator on board Aquarius.
"My aim is to guarantee a peaceful life for these youths in Africa and for our children in Italy", Salvini said, using the Twitter hashtag "We are shutting the ports". The group includes seven pregnant women, 123 unaccompanied minors and people suffering from burns caused from a mixture of seawater and fuel. The tiny island says it already accepts proportionately more refugees than Italy.
Spain offered on Monday to take in a humanitarian ship stranded in global waters with 629 migrants aboard, prompting Italy's new anti-establishment government to claim victory in its bid to get European partners to help more on immigration.
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Speaking during a visit to earthquake-hit towns in central Italy, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte thanked Spain.
Spain stepped in to help after Italy - which has been on the front line of the migration crisis in Europe - and Malta refused to allow the Aquarius to land despite strong pressure from the global community.
Salvini said Malta should disembark the migrants.
Malta said the rescue operations happened in global waters off Libya and were coordinated by Italy.
Italy's new interior minister has refused permission for a rescue vessel to drop off more than 600 migrants picked up off Libya's coast.
"Malta is not acting, France rejects them and Europe does not care", Salvini wrote.
SOS Mediterranee director general Sophie Beau said Spain's offer "is encouraging and shows that some states are sensitive to the humanitarian emergency".