Migrants on a boat
26 September 2018

Aquarius: a European, humane and effective solution

Following a request to dock in Marseille, Aquarius, the Mediterranean rescue vessel, will unload its passengers in Malta, in accordance with international law. This is therefore both a humane and effective solution that Europe is adopting, and one which respects the principles of solidarity and responsibility.

The passengers aboard Aquarius will be received in Malta. A European solution has therefore been found, one that is both humane and effective. It abides by two key principles: responsibility and solidarity, with disembarkation at the nearest safe port (prevailing principle in the law of the sea) and a show of solidarity in taking in the passengers on board.

The Vice-President of SOS Méditerranée France, the NGO which chartered the vessel, herself acknowledged that it was the "best solution", "since this way they can be disembarked without delay in a safe port, where they will be able to exert their right to claim for protection".

Ofpra (the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons) will have officials on the ground in Malta from 26 September. The vessel Aquarius, whose flag has been revoked, will then head to Marseille to resolve its situation. This NGO must now sort out the issue of its flag with its German owner.

Since June, France has played a central role in finding a European, responsible and solidarity-oriented solution each time to these emergencies; in this respect, it is the country that has taken in the most people in need of protection, with more than 250 refugees hosted since June.

This demanding solution is the only effective response to this crisis. In response to all those who are practising demagogic one-upmanship or flexing electoral muscle on the back of the immigration crisis, we are stepping up to take effective and responsible European action.

These emergencies need to stop. Action must now be taken at European level, in line with France's proposals, and in conjunction with Germany and Spain in particular, to set up an enduring mechanism (which combines disembarkation at the nearest safe port and distribution of the reception of people in need of protection; the other, economic migrants, shall have to be swiftly returned).

France obviously complies with the law and, were a vessel to be in distress or have rescued individuals on board in the vicinity of its coastline, we would fully assume our responsibilities. But this is not the case in this instance: Aquarius is not in the vicinity of a French port – Marseille is several days' sailing away.

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