Rescue ship Aquarius won’t take migrants back to Libya

In this photo taken on Sunday, April 17, 2016 migrants ask for help from a dinghy boat as they are approached by the SOS Mediterranee’s ship Aquarius, background, off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. (Patrick Bar/SOS Mediterranee via AP)

Rescue ship Aquarius, which has picked up almost 3,000 migrants from the Mediterranean this year, will carry out rescue missions without waiting for orders from coastguards and will not return people to Libya, its search and rescue head said.

“When we see there is a vessel in distress, with a high likelihood of people dying, we will go and rescue them immediately as per international maritime law,” Nick Romaniuk told Reuters on board the Aquarius.

Over the last year coordination centers asking rescue vessels to go on standby or wait for clarification on certain things had added to the danger of people needing to be rescued, which is why they would no longer wait, he added.

The 77-metre vessel, operated by Franco-German charity SOS Mediterranee, set sail from Marseille this week on its tenth mission of the year.

The ship will be patrolling between 25-30 miles from the Libyan coast, west of Tripoli, an area that is outside Libya’s territorial waters but inside the Libyan search and rescue region.

International law states the country responsible for operations in an area has primary responsibility for disembarking rescue ships.
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