Published: Thu, August 16, 2018
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

United Kingdom should take migrants on Aquarius, says Rome

United Kingdom should take migrants on Aquarius, says Rome

The rescue came as a new migrant dispute was developing, with the migrant rescue vessel Aquarius saying that both Malta and Italy had refused to allow it into their ports.

A humanitarian vessel now believed to be carrying 141 rescued migrants has been denied entry into Italy and Malta, NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Monday. It is believed they had been at sea for almost 35 hours.

Most of the migrants are from Eritrea and Somalia and 67 are unaccompanied minors.

The group said many reported they had been held in inhumane conditions in Libya.

The Aquarius was sailing north in the Mediterranean Sunday in hopes of receiving docking permission from another country.

Migrants are seen resting on board the MV Aquarius rescue ship run by SOS Mediterranee organisation and Doctors Without Borders during a search and rescue (SAR) operation in the Mediterranean Sea, off the Libyan Coast, August 12, 2018.

Mr Vimard added: "It seems the very principle of rendering assistance to persons in distress at sea is now at stake. Ships might be unwilling to respond to those in distress due to the high risk of being stranded and denied a place of safety", said Vimard.

SOS Mediterranee said many of those aboard were extremely weak and malnourished.

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Though departures from Libya have fallen dramatically this year, people smugglers are still pushing some boats out to sea.

"What is of utmost importance is that the survivors are brought to a place of safety without delay, where their basic needs can be met and where they can be protected from abuse", said Nick Romaniuk, search and rescue coordinator for SOS Mediterranee.

According to the statement, Aquarius was made off the Libyan coast, Tunisia and Italy (Lampedusa) in an operation which was coordinated by the Libyan authorities. The vessel is carrying 144 migrants that were rescued off the coast of Libya.

"The vessel [Aquarius ] is now in worldwide waters off Malta and the island of Lampedusa, awaiting the designation of a safe port in accordance with global maritime law", SOS Mediterranee chief Sophie Beau told French radio station France Info. Malta says it can't handle large numbers of migrants.

One of the smugglers' boats, a small wooden craft with 25 migrants, appears to have been at sea for almost 35 hours, the groups said.

The migrants were loaded up onto police vans and taken for processing.

European Union border agency Frontex said on Monday it counted 73,500 "irregular border crossings" into the bloc so far this year via the sea and the Western Balkans route, more than 40 percent fewer than in the first seven months of 2017.

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