Ship to end migrant rescues
The last refugee rescue ship working in the Mediterranean Sea, Aquarius, has ended her operations, French NGO, Medecins sans Frontieres, said. They blam ed harassment from Italy and other countries.
“This is a sombre day,” Nelke Mander, Medecins sans Frontieres’s general director, said. “The end of our operations on board the Aquarius will mean more death in the sea, deaths that are avoidable and without witnesses.”
The decision to moor the Aquarius is the result of a “constant denigration, smearing, and obstruction campaign” against Medecins sans Frontieres and SOS MEDITERRANEAN by the Italian government and supported by other European countries, the NGO said.
The Aquarius was recently accused of trafficking waste and of criminal activities — accusations that are “ludicrous”, Medecins sans Frontieres said.
Italian interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has repeatedly closed Italian ports to the Aquarius, forcing it to sail for days, with dozens of rescued migrants aboard, to find a port in other countries.
Salvini has refused to take more migrants from the Aquarius, demanding other European Union countries take a share. He also said the rescue ships encouraged people to cross towards Europe.
Europe has had its biggest influx of people for decades in the past three years, many fleeing conflicts and poverty in the Middle East and Africa. Sea arrivals have dropped sharply, but the political aftershocks are still reverberating.
The ship was commissioned in February, 2016 and has rescued almost 30,000 people.