News 7 december — 11:45

Aquarius migrant ship 'forced' to end rescue operations

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The Aquarius migrant ship will be ending its search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and its partner SOS Méditerranée have said, Euronews reports.

The NGOs said on Thursday it was "forced to terminate the lifesaving operations" due to "sustained attacks on search and rescue by European states".

For the past two months, the ship has remained in port, due to what it calls a "sustained smear campaign" launched by the Italian government and backed by other European countries.

"We didn’t see a future anymore with this vessel. Not only do we not have a flag, and so far we have not managed to secure a flag, but also the Italian Government and their legal department are running a smear campaign against the Aquarius," Head of Emergencies at MSF, Karline Kleijer, told Euronews.

Kleijer added "the latest accusation is waste [illegal waste disposal], and they accused that people coming from Africa are dangerous because they might have HIV on their clothes.

We have other accusations, we are accused of smuggling, so it just becomes extremely difficult to continue with the Aquarius.”

Since 2015, the vessel and previous ships have rescued or assisted 80,000 people in the Mediterranean, according to MSF.

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