Published: Fri, June 15, 2018
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

MS Aquarius: why did Spain accept the disputed migrant ship?

MS Aquarius: why did Spain accept the disputed migrant ship?

Both governments refused to allow the ship to dock, before Spain offered it safe port on Monday afternoon "to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe".

The UN refugee agency, the European Union, Germany and humanitarian groups had all demanded that the Mediterranean countries put their domestic politics aside and urgently consider the plight of the rescued migrants, which included children, pregnant women and people suffering from hypothermia. Italian authorities were expected to deliver supplies to the rescue ship on Tuesday morning.

Sanchez went on say that "It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe harbour to these people in accordance with worldwide law".

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who took office just over a week ago, has given instructions for the boat to be admitted to the eastern port of Valencia, his office said in a statement.

SOS Mediterranee said an approaching storm would bring with it waves of over 2 metres (6.5 ft) making any trip to Spain highly uncomfortable.

A total 629 migrants - including pregnant women and scores of children - are now crammed on to the Aquarius ship after being rescued off the Libyan coast on Saturday and Sunday. "We comply with worldwide commitments regarding humanitarian emergencies", Sánchez said in a statement posted on Twitter on Monday afternoon. He tells VOA there is no merit to the suggestion that people in distress will be dissuaded from crossing the sea in flimsy boats if they know rescue is not a possibility.

Doctors Without Borders, which is operating the Aquarius alongside SOS Mediterrannean, said Italy wanted to shift at least some of the migrants onto other vessels and then head together in a convoy towards the Spanish port of Valencia.

The European Commission had urged member states to act with responsibility, calling on both Italy and Malta to respond.

Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini, from the far right Lega, wrote, "Saving lives at sea is a duty, but transforming Italy into an enormous refugee camp is not". Italy shouldn't have to shoulder the burden by itself, he added, when other European countries aren't doing their fair share.

More than 1.8 million people have entered Europe since 2014, with more than 600,000 arriving in Italy.

The move was widely condemned by humanitarian groups, with reports that mayors across southern Italy, including in Palermo and Naples, had pledged to defy Salvini's move and open up their city's ports to the ship.

The Italian government would adopt the same position with the Sea Watch 3 as it did with the Aquarius, Salvini said.

But the government of Malta also refused, and as a result the Aquarius was left with no place to dock.

Briefing journalists after a cabinet meeting, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said President Emmanuel Macron had made clear that the country with the nearest coastline to a stranded ship bore responsibility under maritime law.

Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat accused Italy of violating worldwide norms governing sea rescues and said the government's stance risked "creating a risky situation for all those involved".

Like this: