Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

French migrant rescue ship Aquarius stranded again

Italy's Infrastructure and Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli delivers a speech during a ceremony for the 153rd anniversary of the Italian Coast Guard at the command headquarters of the Italian Coast Guard Authorities in Rome on J Image Danilo Toninelli declared Italy would refuse to let the ship dock
Patty Aguilar | 14 August, 2018, 14:41

Since it took office on June 1, Italy's new populist government has closed its ports to migrant rescue non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and called for all migrants caught at sea to be sent back to Libya or other European Union nations.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also one of the country's two deputy prime ministers, also took to Twitter on Monday to say that the Aquarius "can go wherever it wants, [but] not to Italy".

The MV Aquarius had started heading north on Sunday towards Europe when Libyan coastguards called the vessel to pick up 10 migrants spotted on a small fiberglass boat.

Rome - Britain should take in 141 migrants aboard a charity-run rescue boat because the vessel is registered in the British holding of Gibraltar, Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said Monday.

Malta has always insisted that it stood by the worldwide convention, which stipulated that people should be disembarked at the closest, safest port.

The Aquarius was already in its second day at sea and carrying 141 rescued migrants, the majority of them Somalian and Eritrean, when it was directed towards the boat by the Libyan Joint Rescue Coordination Center.

Sky News has contacted the UK Home Office for comment.

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Spain agreed to let the Aquarius dock in June, but a Spanish official said Monday that Spanish ports aren't the safest option now because others are closer. Nick Romaniuk, SOS Mediterranee's search and rescue co-ordinator, said: 'What is of utmost importance is the survivors are brought to a place of safety without delay, where their basic needs can be met'.

"Malta was neither the coordinating nor the competent authority. and therefore has no legal obligation to make the arrangements to provide for a place of safety", the government said in a statement.

They are all said to be in a "stable" condition.

In June, the Aquarius ended up taking some 630 migrants to Spain, which welcomed it.

Though departures from Libya have fallen dramatically this year, people smugglers are still pushing some boats out to sea and an estimated 720 people died in June and July when charity ships were mainly absent, Amnesty International estimates. "We're asking them to be responsible and find a safe port in the Mediterranean", she said, accusing Italy and Malta of flouting worldwide maritime law.

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

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