Aquarius instructed to sail to Spain to reach a port of safety: 629 people rescued in the Mediterranean to be disembarked in Valencia

PRESS RELEASE                                                              Berlin/ Geneva/ Palermo/ Marseille, 12 June 2018

SOS MEDITERRANEE: safety and protection of people should come first

Following the exchanges with Italian and Spanish maritime authorities during the night of Monday to Tuesday 12 June and after more than 36 hours of standby in the international waters 27 nautical miles away from Malta and 35 nautical miles from Sicily, the Aquarius received the official instruction to set sail for the port of Valencia in Spain, indicated as “port of safety” by the competent maritime authorities for the landing of 629 men, women and children rescued at sea off Libya on Saturday 9 June 2018.

The distance between the current position of the Aquarius and the port of Valencia in Spain is 760 nautical miles, more than 1.500 kilometers. At a cruising speed of about 10 knots – which may vary depending on weather conditions – it will take the Aquarius more than three days of navigation before it reaches the port of Valencia for the disembarkation of the 629 survivors currently on board.

During the stand-by position since Sunday evening, the Aquarius was in constant contact with the MRCC Rome, who is the authority that coordinated the rescue and transfer operations last Saturday and Sunday. The Aquarius has duly informed the competent maritime authorities that it would not be safe to travel this long way to Spain with over 600 people on board and that the medical and sanitary situation on board would deteriorate; moreover, that the food reserves on the ship were insufficient to cope with extra three days and of its great concerns about the deteriorating weather conditions on the way to Spain, putting the safety of the 629 passengers at stake/ putting the 629 passengers as well as the crew in danger.

A first resupply of 950 bottles of water, 800 boxes of noodles and snacks were brought by a ship from the Maltese Navy on Monday, late afternoon. A second resupply of food as well as essentials such as blankets, hats and socks has been shuttled to the Aquarius by the Italian Maritime authorities this morning.

More than half of the 629 rescued on board the Aquarius are supposed to be transferred onto two Italian vessels in order to allow the Aquarius to sail safely and to escort her to the port of Valencia, Spain, for disembarking of all the survivors.

“Although this is far from being the best solution for the rescued people, we are relieved that a solution has finally been found to disembark the 629 men, women and children in a safe place in Spain”, declared Sophie Beau, Vice-President of SOS MEDITERRANEE’s international network. “However, the journey is not over and the rescued people will have to sail another 1.500 kilometers before reaching this port of safety. People are still fleeing Libya while the Aquarius is away from the search and rescue area in the Central Mediterranean, where rescue capacities are already totally insufficient. In the last days, we have seen that people, cities and countries were willing and able to mobilize, but the issue of rescue at sea must become a top priority on the agenda on the European agenda. Once again, SOS MEDITERRANEE urges Europe to put the security and protection of people first before any political consideration”.

For more details on the circumstances of the rescue of these 629 people, please refer to our previous press release dated 11 June 2018.

For immediate release. Photo credits: Kenny Karpov/ SOS MEDITERRANEE.

For further information please contact:
International: Mathilde Auvillain/ +39 347 328 2412 / m.auvillain@sosmediterranee.org
France: Laura Garel / +33 634 395 818 / j.begin@sosmediterranee.org
Germany: Jana Ciernioch / +49 30 2205 6811  / j.ciernioch@sosmediterranee.org
Italy: Barbara Amodeo / +39 351 208 35 68 / b.amodeo@sosmediterranee.org
Switzerland: Caroline Abu Sa’Da / +41 76 514 3327 c.abu-sada@sosmediterranee.org