Malta rescues 114 migrants from sinking dinghy

Frederick Owens
August 16, 2018

As his country continues to refuse port to ships run by humanitarian groups, Danilo Toninelli said the United Kingdom should take responsibility for the migrants aboard the Aquarius, which is operated by French humanitarian groups.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, the joint operator of the boat with another French humanitarian group, said it rescued 25 people Friday from a small wooden craft and later that day took 116 people off another wooden boat, including 67 unaccompanied minors. She said "it could of course be the case that in theory a flag state of a rescue ship could be considered a potential location for disembarkation, but this might not be possible in practice".

Italy has demanded Britain take in 141 migrants rescued by a ship that flies under the flag of Gibraltar.

Aloys Vimard, Doctors Without Borders' co-ordinator on board the Aquarius, said the ship happened on the two boats by chance, even though the Libyans were aware of their distress.

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The people rescued told the crew that several ships passed them by without offering assistance, according to SOS Mediterranee.

In June, Aquarius was forced to sail north for days with more than 600 migrants to Spain after Italy and Malta refused it docking permission. The ship is now anchored between Malta and Italy.

Italy's Infrastructure and Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli delivers a speech during a ceremony for the 153rd anniversary of the Italian Coast Guard at the command headquarters of the Italian Coast Guard Authorities in Rome on J
Image Danilo Toninelli declared Italy would refuse to let the ship dock

Malta said on Saturday it would not welcome the ship while Spain said its ports were not the safest destination for the vessel.

More than 70 per cent of those rescued originate from Somalia and Eritrea. Many migrants recounted how they were "held in inhumane conditions in Libya", where human traffickers are based, the aid group aid.

"Malta was neither the coordinating nor the competent authority. and therefore has no legal obligation to make the arrangements to provide for a place of safety".

However, Madrid has not repeated its offer, with a government spokeswoman saying: "At the moment, Spain is not the safest port because it is not the nearest one" for Aquarius to dock.

"It can go where it wants, (but) not to Italy!", Italy's deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, tweeted. The migrants will be brought to Malta in the afternoon, sources said.

Spokesman Ayoub Gassim says the migrants, including 19 women and four children, were rescued after their rubber boat ran into trouble Sunday off the coast of the western town of Zawiya.

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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