Monday, 22 October, 2018

Spain accepts rescue boat with stranded migrants in the Mediterranean

Refugees aboard the Aquarius Refugees aboard the Aquarius
Jeannette Daniel | 13 June, 2018, 21:03

Mayors in Naples, Messina, Reggio Calabria, and Palermo stood against the poll-topping, recently installed Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini Sunday after he said the migrant ship Aquarius would be turned away from Italy, reports Italy's Il Giornale.

But the Aquarius is heavily overcrowded, making the four-day trip to Spain particularly perilous.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which is operating the Aquarius alongside SOS Mediterranne, urged a rethink.

"We call on all involved to contribute to a swift resolution so that the people on board the Aquarius vessel may be safely disembarked as soon as possible".

The decision by the new socialist Spanish government provides a stark contrast to that of its Italian counterpart, which on Sunday took the drastic step of refusing entry to the ship.

Aquarius, a ship operated by SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), had rescued migrants from inflatable boats off the coast of Libya last weekend.

Italy says its decision to shut its ports to hundred of migrants aboard a charity ship is firm, as a clash between Rome and Paris over migrant policy heats up.

Sea Watch, a Germany based non-governmental organization that attempts to aid migrants journeying to Europe, issued a series of tweets saying its vessel was responding to the situation, which the organization said took place 20 miles off the coast of Libya.

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The 629 people now on board Aquarius were rescued during night of Saturday to Sunday, when Aquarius carried out six rescue and transfer operations in the space of nine hours - all under instruction from the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (IMRCC). All were rescued Saturday night - about 50 from the sea and the rest from Libyan coast -in guard dinghies. "All a political stunt.at the expense of people in distress?"

"Many commentators attribute the populists election success to the European Union's failure to assist Italy in handling the migrant crisis". Efforts by Rome to persuade other EU states to accept some of the newcomers and share the cost of their care have largely fallen on deaf ears, heightening anti-European and anti-migrant sentiment in the Italy.

A French NGO's rescue ship, the Aquarius, was waiting for a port to dock at on Monday as a diplomatic standoff played out over where it should go next.

Italy's far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who seems ready to vie even with his hero Donald Trump in cruelty toward the most vulnerable, declared victory on Monday in his campaign to defy worldwide law by refusing to accept more than 600 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean this weekend.

"There is a degree of cynicism and irresponsibility in the Italian government's behavior with regard to this dramatic humanitarian situation", government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux quoted Macron as telling his cabinet.

The Aquarius received 129 people from one Italian coastguard ship (CP 312), 64 from a second Italian coastguard ship (CP 319), and finally 88 from a third Italian coastguard ship (CP 267). Migrant flows into Italy continue, albeit at a slower rate, and migrant departures from Italy to other European nations proceed at a relatively slow pace due to EU asylum policies.

"The boat is now heading north towards a secure port", SOS Mediterranee tweeted without specifying its destination, though virtually every such migrant boat over the past five years ended up in Italy. All passengers were offloaded to the Aquarius to be taken to land.

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