Mediterranean Free of Migrant Transport NGO Ships as Legal Battles Mount


Following the docking of the Aquarius in Marseilles, no migrant transport NGO vessels are currently operating in the Mediterranean as some face increasing legal pressure from European countries.

Of the currently operating migrant transport NGOs, not one has a vessel that was not docked in port at the start of this week, with the ships Lifeline, Sea Watch 3, and the Seefuchs all being kept in dock in Malta, Il Giornale reports.

Since June, the vessel MV Lifeline has been impounded in Malta. Maltese authorities have questioned the captain who now faces charges of steering an unregistered vessel due to the fact he had labelled the ship a “pleasure yacht” and had no flag flying when in international waters. A verdict in the case is expected in September.

While the Aquarius has been able to operate, despite Italian populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refusing port access, troubles for the NGO who operate the vessel, SOS Méditerranée, have been growing.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the ship had been using the flag of Gibraltar when the Italian government demanded the UK take responsibility for 140 migrants on board the vessel.

Shortly after the Italian government’s comments, the Gibraltar Maritime Administration (GMA) issued a “notice of removal” to the crew operating the vessel to remove the flag citing the fact the GMA had asked the ship to stop all search and rescue activity in June and July, which the Aquarius crew had ignored.

While migrant transport NGOs have been stuck in port, migrants have still managed to be ferried by other vessels, including most recently the Italian coastguard ship Diciotti. Interior Minister Salvini allowed the ship to dock, but he resisted allowing the migrants to step foot in Italy, demanding other countries promise to share the burden.

Albania offered to take in 18 of the 140 migrants but now an NGO funded by left-wing Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros is attempting to block the migrants travelling to Albania.

The Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) has denounced the plan to send the migrants to Albania saying the asylum seekers should not be taken to Albania “against their will” if they do not want to go there.

President of ASGI Lorenzo Trucco argued that Albania is not a member of the European Union and described the move as “an attack on the asylum system”.

Trucco was slammed by Salvini who said of the migrants: “They say they are running away from the war and now they make a fuss about where to go?”

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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