UN alarm as migrant rescue ship laid off
THE UN yesterday voiced concern at the end of the mission of the Aquarius rescue ship amid alleged obstruction by some European countries, saying more capacity was needed to save migrants stranded in the Mediterranean.
NGOS SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) announced on Thursday that they would no longer be operating the Aquarius, which has been stranded in southern France since October after Panama revoked the right to fly its flag following a request from Italy’s far-right government.
“Search-and-rescue capacity needs to be reinforced rather than diminished,” Shabia Mantoo, a UN refugee agency spokesman said. “Saving lives is our primary concern.”
Earlier this year, the Aquarius became a symbol of the diplomatic crisis surrounding the arrival of migrants in Europe when Matteo Salvini, Italy’s hardline interior minister, shut its ports and left the ship stranded with 630 people on board.
The withdrawal of the Aquarius, which has helped almost 30,000 migrants, leaves just one smaller NGO rescue ship – Proactiva Open Arms – in the central Mediterranean.
MSF said that the decision to retire the Aquarius was “the result of a sustained campaign, spearheaded by the Italian government and backed by other European states, to delegitimise, slander and obstruct aid organisations.”
Yesterday, Mr Salvini found himself in an unlikely row with Pamela Anderson after she accused him of fomenting a return to fascism. The Baywatch actress said that “current trends” in Italy reminded her of the climate in Europe in the Thirties.
Mr Salvini responded with a sarcastic tweet. “Today I was attacked by an important American politician – Pamela Anderson. I preferred her when she used to wear a swimsuit.”