The number of migrants arriving in Spain has been on the rise, Benavides reports, while the number of sea arrivals in Italy "has dropped 77 percent compared to this time past year, following controversial deals with the Libyan Coast Guard and investigations into NGO search-and-rescues".
Salvini had initially asked Malta to take in the Aquarius, but the government in Valletta said the issue was not its responsibility and accused Italy of "creating a unsafe situation". They need to go to the port that is safest and closest.
Another local resident, Natale Lombardo, said illegal migrants disembarking on the island were virtually "invading" them, adding that "he who arrives here legally is welcomed, but between these people there are also illegals and those can't be tolerated".
While Spain's foreign minister said he hoped its gesture of solidarity would help push other European Union members to re-examine migrant policy at a summit later this month, French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Italy's cynicism and irresponsibility for leaving the migrants at sea, while also deflecting criticism for not allowing the ship to dock in France.
The head of the anti-immigrant party, the League, Salvini has positioned himself as the strongman in the unlikely coalition government recently formed with the ideologically fungible Five Star Movement.
Malta has always refused large numbers of migrants to dock at its ports, saying it already accepts more refugees per capita than Italy.
Several migrants had water in their lungs, suffered hypothermia or burns from a mix of boat fuel and seawater while in their traffickers' boats.
Italy demands an equal share of migrant intake to be distributed across the bloc, something Conte raised at the G7 meeting this past weekend.
Migrants aboard SOS Mediterranee's Aquarius ship after being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea, in a photo released by by French NGO "SOS Mediterranee".
Tweeting on Sunday, Salvini said: "Starting today, Italy, too, begins to say NO to the trafficking of human beings, NO to the business of clandestine immigration".
Italy's new anti-migrant, right-wing interior minister, Matteo Salvini, is making good on a campaign pledge to close Italian ports to non-governmental organizations that pick up migrants at sea, which he has likened to taxi services for migrant smugglers.
"All EU governments and institutions must step up and support countries on the frontline dealing with sea arrivals such as Italy, to guarantee shared solutions and stop unacceptable silence and inaction from EU states".
Malta and the new populist government of Italy refused to allow the Aquarius rescue vessel to dock.
The expeditionary fast transport ship "USNS Trenton, in accordance with its obligations under global law, rendered assistance to mariners in distress that it encountered while conducting routine operations in the Mediterranean Sea", US Navy Lt. Cmdr.
Italy brought fresh supplies to the Aquarius early on Tuesday ahead of the planned transfer of some of the migrants, who include more than 100 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women, to other boats.
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.