Wednesday August 15, 2018
The Aquarius is used to save migrants who get into difficulty trying to cross the sea in flimsy boats
The port of Sète in Hérault and Corsica both say they are ready to welcome the ship Aquarius, which is carrying 141 Africans rescued from the Mediterranean – however this would depend on the French government’s go-ahead.
ship is currently waiting in the sea between Italy and Malta, after it
saved the migrants last Friday and Franco-German charity SOS
Méditerannée which operates it has said it is “calling on all the
European countries to assume their responsibilities”.
the French government has said it is ready to take a share of the
migrants and is “having discussions with its partners to find a solution
in the respect of humanitarian principles” but the ship should dock in
the safest port near to its location.
Both Italy and Malta have
refused and Spain, which allowed the ship to land with a previous group
of migrants in June, also appears not to be keen to help this time. The
office of its prime minister told newspaper El Pais “Spain is not the safest port because it is not the closest according to what is set out under international law”.The migrants were travelling from Libya to Italy in two wooden boats, which capsized. According to El Pais
many come from Eritrea where many young men have fled to avoid
conscription and from Somalia which has suffered years of civil war.
Some 67 are said to be unaccompanied minors.
SOS Méditerranée co-founder Sophie Beau told France Info
the migrants are “in a stable but worrying condition… very fragile… in a
state of exhaustion” and she alleged they had been maltreated in camps
in Libya before they took to the sea. They did not take them back to
Libya, because it is not safe, she said.
However French MEP for
Rassemblement National (former Front National), Nicolas Bay, accused
‘immigrationists’ of wanting to make European countries feel guilty for
not taking ‘illegal migrants’, saying “there is no reason for these
people to come to Europe”.
added: “We should call a halt to this way of thinking that consists of
opening up our doors in Europe and inciting hundreds of thousands of
unfortunate people to take thoughtless risks, fatten the wallets of
mafias and people smugglers and allow a veritable trade in human beings
Gibraltar, a UK overseas territory, says it plans to
strip the ship Aquarius of its Gibraltar registration, because it was
originally registered as a ‘survey vessel’ but has been used for rescue
work. It is expected to revert to German registration as it is
German-owned. Italy’s transport minister has suggested the UK is
responsible for the migrants as it is flying the flag of a British
SOS Méditeranée said it had been completely transparent
about the use of the ship and said the move showed a “deliberate will
to stop the rescue activity of the Aquarius, one of the last civil and
humanitarian rescue ships in the Mediterranean”. “The Gibraltar Maritime
Authority is disguising a political manoeuvre behind an incoherent
argument,” it said.
In an interview published in June’s edition of The Connexion,
SOS Méditerranée founder Klaus Vogel explained how the charity was set
up after the Italian government abruptly cancelled rescue operation Mare
Nostrum in 2014 and “there was literally nobody to help”. He said the
ship operates between Sicily and Libya, where many Africans flee from
other areas “where there are war zones or because there is hunger and no
He added: “In Libya they are trapped and the situation
there is terrible, especially for sub-Saharan people. They have no
choice but to flee by sea, in dangerous and fragile boats.”
charity had since rescued 26,000 people, he said, however he said:
“European solidarity, on rescue and doing the minimum of humanitarian
aid to these people, is not working properly.”
The bottom line is that “we cannot leave them to die at sea,” he said.