Aid agency to launch controversial mission to rescue trafficked migrants in Mediterranean

Médecins Sans Frontières was at the centre of an immigration row on Thursday after announcing plans to launch a controversial new search and rescue service for people-smuggling vessels in the Mediterranean.

The aid agency said it would be operating a 40 metre rescue and medical aid ship that would act a part-replacement for operation Mare Nostrum, the Italian navy’s search and rescue mission that was discontinued in November after European nations said they could not fund its £6m-a-month bill.

At the time, Britain also said it believed that carrying out search and rescue operations was simply encouraging more migrants from Africa to attempt the perilous crossing, which claimed 3,400 lives last year alone…

“Europe has turned its back on people fleeing some of the worst humanitarian crises of our time,” said Arjan Hehenkamp, MSF’s general director. “The decision to close doors and build fences means that men, women and children are forced to risk their lives and take a desperate journey across the sea. Ignoring this situation will not make it go away. Europe has both the resources and the responsibility to prevent more deaths on its doorstep and must act in order to do so”…

…However, the project is likely to run into opposition from anti-immigration groups in both Malta and Italy, who say that search and rescue operations encourage further people trafficking. Both countries have born much of the brunt of the new arrivals, and say that they are struggling to accommodate more…

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