French migrant rescue ship Aquarius stranded again

The Aquarius

"The vessel [Aquarius ] is now in global waters off Malta and the island of Lampedusa, awaiting the designation of a safe port in accordance with worldwide maritime law", SOS Mediterranee chief Sophie Beau told French radio station France Info.

In a statement the Maltese government said the rescue made by the Aquarius took place off the Libyan coast, closer to Libya, Tunisia and Italy (Lampedusa) in an operation which was coordinated by the Libyan authorities.

The Aquarius, run by Franco-German charity SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders (MSF), picked up the people in two separate operations and is in worldwide waters between Italy and Malta.

Of the 141 migrants aboard, 67 are unaccompanied minors, and more than a third are from Eritrea or Somalia, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported. Italy has refused entry to charity rescue boats since a populist government came to power in June with a vow to make its European neighbours take more migrants.

"Stop human traffickers and their accomplices", he wrote. "At this point, the United Kingdom should take responsibility for the safeguarding of the shipwrecked", Toninelli said on Twitter.

The British foreign office was not immediately available for comment.

Over the past few months, southern European countries have taken a hard line on those rescued as they try to cross the Mediterranean, refusing to allow ships to dock and the migrants to disembark.


The spokesperson added that while Britain could theoretically be considered as a destination port, it was not practically feasible to bring the ship there.

Malta's rescue coordination centre told the Aquarius on Saturday that it would not welcome the ship, according to the charity ship's online log.

They also said that rescued migrants "told our teams that they encountered five different ships which did not offer them assistance before they were rescued by Aquarius". 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'.

Salvini's refusal to accept the same boat, the Aquarius, in June when it was carrying 629 migrants set up a clash with other European nations about how to handle the 300,000 migrants who have landed on Italian shores since the start of 2016.

Due to pressure from Italy and Malta, most charity ships are no longer patrolling off the coast of Libya.

An estimated 720 people died in June and July when charity ships were mainly absent, Amnesty International estimates.

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