Migrant rescue ship Aquarius is to resume patrolling the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya, ready to rescue migrants, NGOs “SOS Mediterranee” and “Medecins Sans Frontiers” (MSF) have said.
The ship will be patrolling between 25-30 miles from the Libyan coast, west of Tripoli, an area that is outside Libya’s territorial waters but inside the Libyan search and rescue region.
“Libya is still not recognised as a port of safety, so (we)will not be taking people back there, because… a rescue cannot terminate in a place which is not deemed a port of safety,” Nick Romaniuk told Reuters on board the Aquarius.
“It has to continue for the time being to be European ports. But again, it’s not our decision to make, maritime authorities, they make that decision, but our red line will be not taking people back to Libya,” he said.
Italy’s new populist government has banned foreign NGO ships carrying refugees. Interior minister Matteo Salvini has spearheaded a policy to shut ports to charity ships.
In June 2018, Aquarius was at the centre of a controversy when 629 migrants it rescued from the Mediterranean were subsequently turned away by Italy and Malta, eventually being offloaded in the Spanish port of Valencia.
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