Aid groups beg for safe har­bour for 141 mi­grants on res­cue ship

Irish Independent - - World - Han­nah Strange

THE NGO res­cue ship the Aquar­ius has called on Euro­pean gov­ern­ments to of­fer it safe har­bour af­ter res­cu­ing 141 mi­grants from the Mediter­ranean, say­ing it has been stranded at sea for more than two days.

Medecins Sans Fron­tieres (MSF) and SOS Mediter­ra­nee, which jointly op­er­ate the Aquar­ius, said they had con­tacted au­thor­i­ties in Italy, Malta, Tu­nisia and Libya fol­low­ing Fri­day’s res­cues but have been de­nied a place to dis­em­bark.

They called for ur­gent hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance for those on board, most of whom were said to be from So­ma­lia and Eritrea, were weak and mal­nour­ished, and in­cluded 67 un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors.

“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 Nick Ro­ma­niuk, search and res­cue co-or­di­na­tor for SOS Mediter­ra­nee.

The NGOs said that those on board re­ported en­coun­ter­ing five boats which did not of­fer as­sis­tance a “dis­turb­ing de­vel­op­ment” that sug­gested Italy’s ban on res­cue ships was de­ter­ring crews from help­ing mi­grants in dis­tress.

The Aquar­ius found it­self at the cen­tre of a ma­jor diplo­matic stand­off in June when both Italy and Malta turned it away, leav­ing it at sea with 630 mi­grants on board for more than a week be­fore it was able to dock in the Span­ish port city of Va­len­cia.

It is un­clear whether Spain’s Prime Min­is­ter Pe­dro Sanchez, of the cen­tre-left PSOE, will re­peat that of­fer. He has since al­lowed a Span­ish NGO boat, the Open Arms, to dock on three oc­ca­sions. But he has been ac­cused of fail­ing to en­sure lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have the re­sources to cope with the ar­rivals.

Spain last month over­took Italy as the big­gest Euro­pean landing point for mi­grants, a de­vel­op­ment blamed largely on the clam­p­down in the cen­tral Mediter­ranean.

SOS Mediter­ra­nee and MSF said that Europe was in­creas­ingly putting the co-or­di­na­tion of res­cues in the hands of Libyan au­thor­i­ties. But the lat­ter did not have the “ca­pac­ity” and had sim­ply told it to con­tact oth­ers. (© Daily Tele­graph, Lon­don)

Mi­grants on a wooden boat wait to be res­cued dur­ing a search and res­cue op­er­a­tion with the MV Aquar­ius res­cue ship in the Mediter­ranean Sea, off the Libyan coast. Photo: Reuters

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