Ship to end mi­grant res­cues

Irish Examiner - - World News - Inti Lan­dauro

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.

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