Italy demands Britain takes in 141 migrants on Gibraltan rescue boat

Posted August 16, 2018

Of these, 25 were found adrift on a small wooden boat that had no motor and was believed to have been at sea for about 35 hours, the group said.

Gibraltar has moved to strip a stranded migrant rescue ship of its registration amid a row over which country is responsible for taking in the 141 desperate migrants, including dozens of children, on board.

A total of 141 people were rescued on Friday by the search and rescue vessel Aquarius, chartered by SOS MEDITERRANEE and operated in partnership with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Almost three-quarters of those rescued originate from Somalia and Eritrea.

Malta's armed forces rescued 114 migrants from a sinking dinghy 53 nautical miles south of Malta, the government said Monday in a statement.

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

The director of the French port of Sete on the Mediterranean coast said meanwhile yesterday that he would be prepared to let the boat, carrying migrants mostly from Somalia and Eritrea to dock if the government gave the all clear. Aloys Vimard, Doctors Without Borders coordinator on the Aquarius, said the ship discovered the two boats by chance, even though the Libyans were aware of their distress.

"It can go where it wants, not in Italy!" far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said of the Aquarius on Twitter, mentioning France, Germany, Britain or Malta as destinations.

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The French presidency said yesterday that it was in touch with the other European Union nations on the Mediterranean to "rapidly" find a port where the Aquarius can dock, while stressing that global maritime law states that the boat should be able to dock in the port that is closest.

The Libyan JRCC informed the Aquarius that it would not provide a place of safety and instructed Aquarius to request a place of safety from another coordination centre.

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

Due to pressure from Italy and Malta, most charity ships are no longer patrolling off the coast of Libya.

"The boat is now in Maltese waters and has a Gibraltar flag".

Although arrivals in Italy of rescued migrants smuggled from Libya have sharply dropped off this year compared with previous years, some 600,000 reached Italian ports in the past few years.

"People rescued in the worldwide waters of the Mediterranean must not be returned to Libya, but should be taken to a place of safety in line with global and maritime law", MSF said in a statement, saying that numerous migrants had suffered abuse during their transit through Libya.

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