French rescue vessel Aquarius stranded: What we know so far


Salvini, the leader of the rightwing League party, has spearheaded the new Italian government's tough stance on migration which was seen NGO search-and-reascue vessels denied access to Italy's ports.

EU Commission spokeswoman Tove Ernst said in Brussels that the commission is in touch with member states to find a solution, but she couldn't say how many states were involved in the talks since the situation is changing.

"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.

The vessel, Aquarius, rescued migrants from global waters on Friday with the help of Libya. The ship, he said, had a foreign crew and was now in Maltese waters, flying a Gibraltar flag.

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They first found 25 people drifting on a small wooden boat without an engine and believe they had been at sea for 36 hours.

Most of the migrants are from Somalia and Eritrea and include 67 unaccompanied minors.

Malta said it had no legal obligation to berth the ship while Spain said its ports were not the safest destination for the vessel.

The Aquarius, run by Franco-German charity SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders (MSF), picked up the people in two separate operations and is now in global waters between Italy and Malta. Many recounted how they were "held in inhumane conditions in Libya", where human traffickers are based, the aid group said.

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In June the Aquarius was forced to sail a further 700 nautical miles (1,296 kilometers) through the Mediterranean with more than 600 migrants on board to the Spanish port city of Valencia after it was denied a safe harbor by Italy and Malta.

"We are now following the instructions of the JRCC and will duly contact other rescue coordination centres for a place of safety to disembark the rescued people we have on board", said Nick Romaniuk, Search and Rescue Coordinator for SOS MEDITERRANEE.

According to the statement, Aquarius was made off the Libyan coast, Tunisia and Italy (Lampedusa) in an operation which was coordinated by the Libyan authorities.

Spokesman Ayoub Gassim says the migrants, including 19 women and four children, were rescued after their rubber boat ran into trouble Sunday off the coast of the western town of Zawiya.

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More than 650,000 migrants have come to Italy's shores since 2014, and Rome has accused its European Union peers of not sharing the burden of taking in those who arrive on the bloc's southern border.