UNHCR: Bring Aquarius passengers to land, deal with wider issues later

News Comment from UNHCR's Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean Vincent Cochetel

Survivors rescued from the Mediterranean by the Aquarius, which is operated by the Medecins Sans Frontieres and SOS Mediterranee charities.  © Karpov/SOS MEDITERRANEE

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today appealed to concerned governments to allow the immediate disembarkation of hundreds of people stranded in the Mediterranean since Saturday aboard a rescue ship, the Aquarius.

“There is an urgent humanitarian imperative here,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean. “People are in distress, are running out of provisions and need help quickly. Broader issues such as who has responsibility and how these responsibilities can best be shared between States should be looked at later.”

Some 629 people are currently aboard the Aquarius, among them over 100 children. The vessel is in waters off Malta and Italy. Thus far no country has accepted to allow them to disembark.

“Fundamentally, the principle of rescue at sea must not be put into doubt through incidents like this. Other governments must act to support countries dealing with sea arrivals. This could include a predictable mechanism across the region for disembarkation, based on good cooperation amongst states and other relevant actors,” Cochetel added.

Italy has seen some 13,706 sea arrivals so far in 2018, a significant decrease from recent years.

 

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