To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether he plans to tackle the criminalisation of humanitarian assistance to migrants as evidenced by the recent seizure of the migrant rescue vessel Aquarius; and if he will make a statement.
The UK Government is aware of the seizure of the Marine Vessel Aquarius by the Italian authorities on grounds of waste pollution. The vessel operated as a Search and Rescue vessel in the central Mediterranean by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) 'SOS Méditerranée' and 'Médicins Sans Frontières' until September 2018. This matter is now subject to Italian legal processes and it is not appropriate for the UK Government to comment. We recognise the importance of Search and Rescue in the Mediterranean and value the contribution of NGOs in saving lives at sea. We are concerned about the increasing fatality rate that has coincided with the effective cessation of the Search and Rescue operations in the central Mediterranean due to the lack of assurances over safe disembarkation arrangements. We will continue to be involved with efforts to find a solution.