A notorious migrant ship - suspected of aiding human traffickers - with more than 140 Africans on board is once more in search of a European port.
“We ask the European governments to assign a safe haven to Aquarius after the rescue operations in the Mediterranean,” said the French aid organization Doctors Without Borders, which operates the ship together with SOS Mediterranée.
The crew claimed to have collected 141 Africans from two wooden rafts in two missions on Friday. The majority of them are from Eritrea and Somalia. Half of the migrants are minors.
The asylum seekers say that they had met five ships, none of which had offered them help. Only the crew of the Aquarius moved in to save them. “The principle of rescue is at risk,” said MSF coordinator Aloys Vimard, according to the Italian daily La Reppublica.
He blamed the governments of the Mediterranean states for the current state of affairs. “A policy aimed at preventing people at all costs from coming to Europe leads to even greater suffering and riskier crossing of those who are already at risk.”
According to SOS Mediterranée, Aquarius had informed the competent authorities of Italy, Malta and Tunisia as well as the Joint Coordination Center for Libyan Rescue Teams during the two missions. However, no country has allowed the migrant ship to make landfall.
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini (Lega) had announced in a radio interview on Saturday that the ship would, “certainly not dock in an Italian port”. He reiterated the course of his government, which for weeks has said no ships of rescue organisations with migrants on board would be allowed.
Meanwhile, the helpers announced that they would continue towards Europe until they find a safe haven.
This morning Salvini tweeted that the Aquarius with another 141 immigrants on board was “German property, hired by French NGOs, foreign crew, in Maltese waters, flying the flag of Gibraltar”. He added: “It can go anywhere it wants, not to Italy! Stop traffickers of human beings and accomplices.”