Malta rescues 114 migrants from sinking dinghy, but refuses Aquarius migrants

The Aquarius

The Aquarius

The NGO said that the vessel, the MV Aquarius, had rescued the migrants as they were attempting to cross the Mediterranean in two small wooden boats.

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

Earlier, Malta's armed forces rescued 114 migrants from a rubber dinghy taking on water 53 nautical miles south of Malta and brought them back to the Mediterranean island.

Later that day, Aquarius spotted a second overcrowded wooden boat with 116 people onboard, including 67 unaccompanied minors.

Almost three-quarters of those rescued originate from Somalia and Eritrea.

Due to pressure from Italy and Malta, most charity ships are no longer patrolling off the coast of Libya.

The director of the French port of Sete on the Mediterranean coast said meanwhile yesterday that he would be prepared to let the boat, carrying migrants mostly from Somalia and Eritrea to dock if the government gave the all clear.

Malta's rescue coordination centre told the Aquarius on Saturday that it would not welcome the ship, according to the charity ship's online log.

Italy continues to refuse port to humanitarian rescue ships, and the country's transport minister, Danilo Toninelli, said on Twitter that Britain should take responsibility for the migrants aboard the Aquarius because it sails under the flag of the British territory of Gibraltar.

"Malta was neither the coordinating nor the competent authority for such a rescue, and therefore has no legal obligation to make the arrangements to provide for a place of safety". While their medical condition is stable, for now, many are extremely weak and malnourished.

More than 650,000 migrants have come to Italy's shores since 2014, prompting Rome to accuse its European Union peers of not sharing the burden of caring for those who arrive on the bloc's southern border.

"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", the group quoted Nick Romaniuk, its search and rescue coordinator as saying.

"The boat is now in Maltese waters and has a Gibraltar flag".

"People rescued in the worldwide waters of the Mediterranean must not be returned to Libya, but should be taken to a place of safety in line with global and maritime law", MSF said in a statement, saying that numerous migrants had suffered abuse during their transit through Libya.

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