Aquarius standoff: MSF calls for people's safety to come before politics

MSF Sea said the best option for the rescued migrants would be to disembark at the nearest port and be transferred to a safe country 

The best option for the migrants onboard the Aquarius would be to disembark at the nearest port and transferring them to Spain from there, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said.

In a tweet, MSF Sea said that sending the migrants to Valencia, Spain, would mean that rescued people who were already exhausted would endure four more days of travel at sea.

“The best option would be to disembark the rescued people in the nearest port after which they can be transferred to Spain or other safe countries for further care and legal processing,” MSF tweeted.

MSF said that they rescued parties were receiving supplies onboard the Aquarius. The Italian Rescue Authorities would then transfer some people from the Aquarius to Italian ships and will head to Valencia, Spain.

“MSF calls for people’s safety to come before politics.”

READ MORE: As Malta and Italy squabble, migrants pray on stranded ship

What has happened so far?

The 629 migrants were rescued by Italian navy vessels coordinated by the Rome rescue coordination centre on Saturday, and transported to the Aquarius as it would give them shelter.

Italy’s Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini, from the far-right Lega, said that Italy would not authorise Aquarius’ entry into any Italian port, and insisted it was up to Malta’s government to give the ship the green light for docking. The Corriere della Sera called the a move as “officially opening the dispute with Malta.”

Joseph Muscat, however,  told his Italian counterpart Giuseppe Conte that Malta was acting in full conformity with its international obligations and would not take the humanitarian ship Aquarius and its over 600 rescued migrants into Maltese ports.

READ MORE: Spain will take rescue ship with 629 migrants on board

Spanish authorities yesterday stepped in and offered to take in the migrants.

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, the Spanish government said that “The prime minister has given instructions so that Spain can fulfil its international humanitarian crisis commitments and has announced that the Aquarius will be welcomed into a Spanish port ... It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a ‘safe harbour’ to these people in accordance with international law.”

MSF tweeted, saying that Valencia was 1,300Km away, which meant a three-day journey for those onboard.

With the vessel over its maximum capacity, MSF said that the "health and safety of people rescued onboard including sick and injured people, pregnant women and children must come first", adding that it had not yet received any communications from Rome or Madrid.

READ MORE: Malta tells UNHCR it is ready to bring urgent medical cases to Malta

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat also said that Malta was prepared to offer medical assistance to rescued migrants on the Aquarius that were in “precarious situations”.

“We said that we are willing to help those in a precarious situation,” Muscat said, adding that a few hours earlier Malta had sent food and supplies to the vessel.

“We did this despite there not having a been a request for it but because we understand the situation.”

READ MORE: PN MEP Roberta Metsola takes dig at Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

More in National

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition

Subscribe