Aquarius rescue ship seeks European port for migrants found off Libya

Remigio Civitarese
Agosto 14, 2018

The operators of the migrant ship Aquarius on Monday called on Europe to find a safe haven for 141 people it rescued in the Mediterranean, saying Italy and Malta had again refused to let the vessel dock.

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".

Earlier, Malta's armed forces rescued 114 migrants from a rubber dinghy taking on water 53 nautical miles south of Malta and brought them back to the Mediterranean island.

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

"Stop human traffickers and their accomplices", he wrote.

"Aquarius NGO ship with another 141 immigrants on board: German owned, rented by French NGO, foreign crew, in Maltese waters, flying the flag of Gibraltar", Salvini said via Twitter.

Malta said on Saturday it would not welcome the ship while Spain said its ports were not the safest destination for the vessel.

Sky News has contacted the UK Home Office for comment.

"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", said the group's search and rescue coordinator, Nick Romaniuk.

A United Kingdom government spokesperson said: "We are deeply concerned for the welfare of 141 migrants who have been rescued from the Mediterranean by sailing vessel Aquarius. The requests for such vessel to enter ports are unwarranted and without legal standing", the government said, adding that it was monitoring the situation and staying in touch with other authorities.

More than 140 migrants rescued by an aid group as they drifted in the Mediterranean have claimed five ships passed them by without plucking them to safety.

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.

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

European Union border agency Frontex said on Monday it counted 73,500 "irregular border crossings" into the bloc so far this year via the sea and the Western Balkans route, more than 40 percent fewer than in the first seven months of 2017.

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