French rescue vessel Aquarius stranded again, seeks port

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

Italy's interior minister Matteo Salvini, also via Twitter, insisted the ship would not be entering Italy.

Adding: "Stop human traffickers and their accomplices, #closedports and #openhearts".

The Aquarius, run by Franco-German charity SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders (MSF), picked up the people in two separate operations and is in global waters between Italy and Malta.

Italy has refused entry to charity rescue boats since a populist government came to power in June with a vow to make its European neighbours take more migrants.

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 worldwide maritime law states that the boat should be able to dock in the port that is closest.

Malta said on Saturday it would not welcome the ship either.

Toninelli said the rescue was coordinated by Libyan authorities and that the ship was in Maltese waters.

Britain could be responsible for taking in 141 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean, Brussels said after the Italian government called for the United Kingdom to take them in.

The dinghy was taking in water but all migrants on board were rescued and taken on board the P23 patrol vessel.

"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". 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".

The humanitarian groups said the Aquarius is adrift between Italy and Malta, and awaiting instructions.

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. But on Monday, Madrid did not repeat 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.

An estimated 720 people died in June and July when charity ships were mainly absent, Amnesty International estimates.

"We are now following the instructions of the JRCC and will duly contact other rescue coordination centres for a place of safety to disembark the rescued people we have on board", said Nick Romaniuk, Search and Rescue Coordinator for SOS MEDITERRANEE.

The criminalisation and obstruction of humanitarian organisations reflects the larger problem of a broken European asylum system and the failure of the EU member states to relocate asylum seekers who arrive in Europe.

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