MSF and SOS Mediterranean put an end to the rescue operations of the "Aquarium"

The Aquarius, ready to land in Marseille, August 1, 2018.
The aquarium, ready to land in Marseille, 1 August 2018. Claude Paris / AP

Aquarius has become the symbol of the political crisis surrounding the reception of migrants. Soon there will be no more. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranean announced their duty on Thursday, December 6th "Put an end" the rescue operations of their humanitarian ship, which remained without a flag for two months.

"Just give up"aquarium" it was an extremely difficult decision to make "said Frederic Penard, director of operations at SOS Mediterraneo, complaining "The continuous attacks on the ship and its crews". But the non-governmental organization based in Marseille "He is already actively exploring options for a new ship and a new pavilion"is "Consider seriously all the shipowners' proposals that will allow him to continue his rescue mission". "We refuse to sit idly while people continue to die at sea"Mr. Penard assured.

"It's a dark day", for its part, regrets in a separate statement Nelke Mander, Executive Director of MSF, for which "The end of our operations on board"aquarium" means more deaths at sea ».

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Complications from the closure of Italian ports

Privileged by the flag of Gibraltar and then by Panama, the "Aquarium", which had started its rescue operations off Libya in February 2016, found itself stuck in Marseilles at the beginning of October, pending a register where you subscribe. Last week Bern had refused the Swiss flag.

At the end of November, the Italian courts had requested the seizure of the ship for an unlawful case of waste. accusations "Disproportionate and unfounded" for SOS Mediterranean who complained "Eighteen months of criminalization, discredit and defamation against research and rescue NGOs" resulting in"Further weakening of sea rescue capabilities".

Since the beginning of its operations, the "Aquarium" has assisted almost 30,000 people. But the ship has seen obstacles multiply since Italy, under the guidance of the Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini, has closed its ports this summer to humanitarian ships.

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"Despite the recent efforts of non-governmental organizations at sea, there is no longer any boat dedicated to rescue in the Mediterranean Sea", added MSF, who reported "2.133 people died in the Mediterranean" from the start of the year and has accused European governments of having "Contributed to these tragic events by supporting Libyan coastal guards to intercept people at sea".

Diplomatic psychodrama during the summer

"Aquarius" had become a symbol of the diplomatic crisis that surrounded the reception of migrants in June, after wandering for a week in the Mediterranean with 630 migrants on board that Italy had refused to host . After approaching Corsica, the ship with the orange hull had landed in Valencia, Spain, convinced to open its ports with the promise of several European countries to distribute the refugees.

Several other rescue operations at sea triggered a similar diplomatic psychodrama during the summer, forcing a handful of European states to improvise to distribute refugees and to think of a more permanent mechanism.

"The end of the pro-migrant activities of the"aquarium", an accomplice of the smuggling mafias is a good news », the president of the National Rally (RN), Marine Le Pen, reacted on Twitter, rejoicing for what he believes to be "The end of a pseudo-humanitarian and truly immigrationist imposture".

After losing the Panamanian flag, the "Aquarius" arrived in Marseille on October 4 after landing 58 people in Malta. France, to which SOS Méditerranée had initially requested permission to disembarked, had refused in the name of the principle of "Safe Harbor Closer". MSF assured that"As long as people will suffer in Libya", She "He will look for ways to help them". "Today more than ever, we need the support of all citizens who still believe in our values ​​of humanity at sea and wish to contribute to our efforts to find a new ship and a new pavilion"said Sophie Beau, director of SOS Méditerranée France.

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