Rescue ship stripped of flag amid dispute over migrants stranded at sea


Maritime authorities in Malta and Italy refused the Aquarius’ requests to dock Monday and permit the migrants, who had been pulled from waters off the coast of Libya on Friday, to disembark.

Among the many “weak and malnourished” migrants are two pregnant girls and 67 unaccompanied minors, many from Somalia and Eritrea, a few of whom reported being held in inhuman circumstances in Libya, the charity mentioned.

On Monday, Italian transport minister Danilo Toninelli urged the UK to “assume its duty” for the migrants as a result of the ship sails underneath the flag of Gibraltar, a British territory.

The UK refuted the concept the Aquarius was its duty, although it expressed concern for the welfare for these on board.

“It’s well-established that duty for arranging disembarkation, at a close-by secure port, is assumed by the related regional Maritime Rescue and Co-ordination, and in accordance with the desires of the ship’s Grasp,” mentioned a authorities spokesperson in an announcement.

After Gibraltar’s transfer to revoke its registration, the Aquarius will now revert to the flag of its “underlying proprietor,” Germany, in line with an announcement from the Gibraltar Maritime Administration (GMA). Germany has but to problem an announcement on the difficulty.

The humanitarian ship, operated by charities SOS Méditerranée and Docs With out Borders (MSF), stays on standby within the sea between Malta and Italy, awaiting additional steering.

“MSF is especially involved about group of 38 kids who’re underneath 15 years of age and who shouldn’t have a guardian or authorized guardian with them,” MSF tweeted on Monday. “The youngest is 12 years previous.”

SOS Méditerranée tweeted a separate video of the ship.

“The state of affairs aboard the Aquarius is sort of okay for now, however the state of affairs just isn’t sustainable in the long run,” mentioned a employees member on board.

“We’ve got medical instances, (the) circumstances might deteriorate at any second. The individuals we rescued have been by hardship in Libya.”

Ship ‘ignored orders to cease rescues’

In line with the assertion from GMA, the Aquarius was chartered by the 2 charities as a “survey vessel,” and wasn’t licensed to conduct search and rescue operations.

It mentioned the Aquarius was ordered to stop its search and rescue actions in June and July however didn’t act so its registration shall be canceled on August 20.

SOS Méditerranée released a statement Tuesday accusing the GMA of “disguising a political maneuver behind an incoherent argument.”
The rescue ship Aquarius leaving a French harbor on August 1, after having been docked for a month for maintenance work.

The charity “has glad for the final two years all regulatory requests arising from the competencies of the Gibraltar Flag State, and all technical controls concerning safety and security of the ship,” the assertion mentioned. “No deficiencies had been ever reported.”

The assertion claimed GMA was merely “pretending to care” concerning the migrants, and that the flag termination confirmed “a deliberate will to cease the rescue exercise of the Aquarius, one of many final civil and humanitarian rescue ships within the Mediterranean.”

A fractured Europe

The Aquarius was also briefly stranded in June whereas carrying 630 migrants after Italy and Malta refused to permit it to dock. France was thrown into the combo when French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Italy’s place, escalating tensions.

Spain lastly agreed to simply accept the migrants, however the diplomatic tussle revealed a fractured Europe, and the Aquarius grew to become a logo of the migration disaster within the Mediterranean.

A migrant on board the rescue ship Aquarius in June, as the ship headed for Spain.
In late June, weeks after the dispute, European Union leaders struck a deal on migration to extra extensively share refugees amongst member states. The EU agreed to supply extra help to Mediterranean nations like Italy, however the voluntary deal lacked concrete particulars, and lots of questions stay unanswered.

The Mediterranean stays the world’s deadliest migration route, regardless of sharp falls within the variety of individuals attempting to succeed in Europe by boat. That drop is partly ascribed to a deal struck between Italy and Libya final 12 months, during which the southern European nation pledged to bolster Libya’s coast guard so it might spot departing migrant boats and home migrants trying to cross.

As of August 8, there have been an estimated 1,524 deaths on the route this 12 months, according to the International Organization for Migration, with the vast majority of the 60,309 migrants and refugees arriving by Spain and Italy.

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