ROME – The French Non-Government-Organization SOS Mediterranee informed on Tuesday on the fate regarding 629 immigrants rescued last Saturday off the Libyan coast, who remain stranded at sea on board NGO rescue ship Aquarius.
The current plan now requires transferring them to two Italian Navy vessels and disembarking them in the port of Valencia after Spain’s government offered to accept them after the Maltese and Italian government’s refused.
According to an SOS Mediterranee Twitter statement, their ship remained dead in the water between Malta and Italy as Rome’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC) informed them the migrant castaways would be transferred to Italian vessels with Valencia as their final port of destination.
However, according to a Twitter statement by French NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF), this meant “people rescued at sea who are exhausted must face another four more days at sea.”
The MSF statement added the plan was to “transfer 500 people from the Aquarius onto Italian Navy vessels, while 129 people remained on board the Aquarius as the three ships navigate together towards Valencia.”
An Italian vessel remained close to the Aquarius and had sent auxiliary boats to stock-up supplies, according to sources on board the French SOS Mediterranee ship with MSF staffers on board.
SOS Mediterranee explained that Spain’s offer was “a very positive signal” although lamented Valencia was 1,300 km distant from the Aquarius’ current position therefore requiring another 4-5 days of navigation under harsh conditions.
Aloys Vimard, MSF coordinator on board Aquarius, reacted to recent words by Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini: “To deny desperate people rescued at sea to disembark cannot be considered a victory,” adding it was “the wrong response to (EU) member state’s lack of responsibility and burden-sharing.”
Although Italy refused to accept this ship, on Sunday it authorized its Coast Guard to disembark in the port of Catania (Sicily) another 937 rescued immigrants.