UN alarm as mi­grant res­cue ship laid off

The Daily Telegraph - - World news - By Nick Squires in Rome

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.”

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