'Political games' will not deter sea rescue missions
ROME - The Aquarius sea rescue boat is back in service after a month of inactivity while all European ports have stuck by the decision to stay closed to humanitarian rescue vessels, announce SOS Mediterreanean officials.
Since the Aquarius crisis in June, the sea rescue service had been suspended for lack of "safe port" to dock in, since Italy closed its ports to NGOs at the orders of Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, cutting off the only route which was still open to NGOs. With no other European country taking responsibility for saving lives in the Mediterranean, 1,200 confirmed persons have been lost at sea this month while French, Italian, Spanish and other European governments have been discussing how to deal with the crisis, without offering a safe port option.
Unwilling to join in with "political games," and wait on the decisions of "politicians who use human lives as bargaining chips" the NGO SOS Mediterranean will not neglect their duty any longer to rescue endangered people at sea, said SOS Mediterranean coordinator, Nicola Stalla.
The NGO has also declared that Libyan ports cannot be classified as "safe ports", and so under no circumstance will the rescue ship dock there. From reports and investigations carried out in Libyan detention centres, the agency confirms that the conditions in these centres are "completely inhumane and unnacceptable." This goes against the testimony of Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, who praised the conditions of Libyan detentions centres during his visit in June.
Despite having "no guaranteed port to dock in", the rescue teams are resuming their mission in the Mediterranean sea. "We are a humanitarian agency, and there is a humanitarian crisis going on. It is our duty to go and save lives, no matter how dangerous it might be," said MSF Italy's president, Claudia Lodesani.
"Under international law, the duty to save and give assistance to any person found to be in danger at sea applies in any sea, and to any vessel. We must protect this law, and politicians cannot stop us from doing so."
The NGO now keeps a blog which follows the progress and situation of the Aquarius ship, which ensures transparency about the missions, allowing a clear and direct stream of updates coming directly from the onboard crew.
Having set out at 18:00 on Aug 1 from Marseille, the Aquarius crew is heading out steadily, southwards.