Only days after ending migrant transport operations, NGO SOS Méditerranée has announced they will be replacing their current vessel with a new one to resume operations in the New Year.
The group released a statement this week saying that they had not entirely given up on their commitment to picking up migrants off the Libyan coast despite the announcement from their partner Doctors Without Borders (MSF) that the Aquarius would be ending operations last week.
The NGO blamed European governments for the shut down of operations saying, “This is the result of a sustained campaign, spearheaded by the Italian government and backed by other European states, to delegitimise, slander and obstruct aid organisations providing assistance to vulnerable people.”
According to SOS Méditerranée’s Director of Operations Frédéric Penard, “Foregoing Aquarius has been an extremely difficult decision, but it will allow our teams to resume search and rescue operations as quickly as possible.”
“We refuse to sit idly by while people continue to die at sea. As long as human beings continue to attempt the most dangerous crossing in the world,” he added.
Salvini Wins: 'Doctors Without Borders' Permanently Cancels Migrant Ferry Operations https://t.co/wBJE3MXeRg
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The NGO then added that they are “actively exploring the options” for obtaining a new vessel after the Aquarius was forced to be stuck in port as countries refused to allow it to fly their national flags, which the organisation had previously blamed on the populist Italian government.
“Saving lives at sea is and will remain our mission and, today more than ever, we need the support of all citizens who still believe in our values of humanity at sea and wish to contribute to our efforts to find a new ship and a new flag,” said Sophie Beau, director of the French branch of SOS Méditerranée.
Populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been one of the main driving forces behind stopping migrant transport ships in the Mediterranean after he refused NGO vessels access to Italian ports.
Over the last two years, pressure from the Italians has reduced the number of migrants coming to Italy by 80 percent.