Thursday, 20 September, 2018

Humanitarian ship seeks European port for rescued migrants

Migrants picked up the Doctors Without Borders Sea boat the Aquarius. 141 were rescued and are now being refused permission to dock in Italy and Malta. Pic Guglielmo Mangiapane SOS Mediterranee Image Italy and Malta have stopped the Aquarius docking. Pic Guglielmo Mangiapane SOS Mediterranee
Ellis Copeland | 16 August, 2018, 14:26

Mr Toninelli said the rescue was co-ordinated by the Libyan coast guard and that the ship is now in Maltese waters.

"At this point the United Kingdom assumes its responsibility for the safeguarding of the shipwrecks", he said.

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 Gibraltar government said in a statement the ship could no longer fly a Gibraltar flag from August 20 and should revert back to the "underlying owners' flag", which is Germany.

The vessel, Aquarius, rescued migrants from worldwide waters on Friday with the help of Libya.

Doctors Without Borders said in a statement said that European governments are focusing their efforts on "propping up the Libyan JRCC (joint rescue cooperation center)" but that the two rescues Friday underlined the unreliability of that system.

Malta rejected any suggestion the Aquarius should dock in its ports, saying the latest rescue was made closer to Libya, Tunisia and Italy than to its own shores.

The new government's closed-door policy led to more than 600 people on the same ship being stranded at sea for nine days in June before Spain's socialist prime minister Pedro Sanchez offered to let it dock in Valencia. It is believed they had been at sea for almost 35 hours.

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Malta said it had no legal obligation to berth the ship while Spain said its ports were not the safest destination for the vessel. Many also report that they were held in inhumane conditions in Libya.er that day, Aquarius spotted a second overcrowded wooden boat with 116 people onboard, including 67 unaccompanied minors.

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

Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini said Monday that the NGO-run migrant search-and-rescue ship Aquarius will not be allowed access to Italy's ports.

"What is of utmost importance is that the survivors are brought to a place of safety without delay, where their basic needs can be met and where they can be protected from abuse".

Spokesman Ayoub Gassim says the migrants, including 19 women and four children, were rescued after their rubber boat ran into trouble Sunday off the coast of the western town of Zawiya.

Protracted feuds between EU states over how to handle immigrants have thrown the issue back onto the European agenda.

Aloys Vimard, Doctors Without Borders coordinator on the Aquarius, said the ship discovered the two boats by chance, even though the Libyans were aware of their distress.

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