Portugal reaches agreement with Spain, France to welcome Aquarius migrants

Crew members of the search and rescue vessel 'Aquarius' of NGO 'SOS Mediterranee' wave as the vessel arrives in the port of Marseille on 29 June 2018 [EPA-EFE/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO]

The Portuguese government said on Tuesday (25 September) it had reached an agreement with Spain and France to welcome some of the migrants on board the last private rescue ship in the Mediterranean, after Italy refused to let the vessel dock. EURACTIV’s partner efe-epa reports.

The agreement is the second such cooperation between European countries since Italy’s new populist coalition government started turning away from Italian ports boats with migrants rescued while attempting perilous crossings from Libya to Europe.

The NGOs SOS Méditerranée and Doctors Without Borders, which jointly operate the migrant rescue ship Aquarius, had called on the French authorities on Monday to allow its vessel to dock at the southern port of Marseille.

“Portugal has agreed with Spain and France, in the context of the joint response to the flow of migrants seeking to reach Europe through the Mediterranean, to host 10 of the 58 people on the Aquarius vessel,” the government of Prime Minister António Costa said in a statement.

The French government initially refused to grant permission for the ship to dock in Marseille, and the country’s economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, said it was not the closest safe port and European rules must be adhered to.

Portugal’s government said it had made its offer on humanitarian grounds and in solidarity with Spain and France.

Many thousands of migrants attempt dangerous Mediterranean crossings often in rickety boats each year in a bid to find a better life.

In August, France and Malta struck a deal to let the Aquarius dock in Malta’s Valletta harbour, after France, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain agreed to accept the migrants.

French rescue vessel Aquarius stranded again, seeks port

The operators of the migrant ship Aquarius on Monday called on Europe to find a safe haven for 141 people it rescued in the Mediterranean, saying Italy and Malta had again refused to let the vessel dock.

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