Aid group MSF splits with partner over migrant rescues


BERLIN (AP) – Aid group Doctors without Borders said Friday it is ending its cooperation with partner SOS Mediterranee amid disagreement over the continued rescue of migrants.

Doctors without Borders, which is also known by its French acronym MSF, said it wants to continue its operations in the Mediterranean Sea, despite attempts by some European governments to block rescued migrants from being brought ashore because of the coronavirus pandemic.

SOS Mediterranee said it was temporarily suspending its operations “until the circumstances allow us to safely resume our work” but respected MSF’s stance.

The two groups have jointly conducted rescue operations on the vessel Ocean Viking, rescuing thousand of people in distress at sea over the past years. The ship will remain in port for now.

MSF accused European governments of “instrumentalizing outbreak control measures to justify the violation of international law and humanitarian principles, leaving the most vulnerable to die at Europe’s borders.”

Separately, some 146 migrants aboard the German-flagged rescue ship Alan Kurdi were transferred to a larger Italian vessel Friday after being denied permission to land by Italy and Malta for 12 days – though three migrants were evacuated for medical reasons.

Sea-Eye, the group that operates the ship, welcomed the fact that Italian authorities had given the Red Cross the go-ahead to transfer the migrants to the passenger ferry Raffaele Rubattino, where they will be quarantined for 14 days off the port of Palermo, though it remains unclear where they will then be taken.

A Spanish ship, the Aita Mari, remains at sea with about 40 people on board, Sea-Eye chairman Gorden Isler said.

People disembark from the Ocean Viking rescue ship, at the Taranto harbor, Southern Italy, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. The SOS Mediterranee NGO ship disembarked 403 migrants rescued over the weekend in the Mediterranean Sea. (Ingenito/LaPresse via AP)