BRUSSELS, October 3, 2018

European leaders should act quickly to help the Aquarius, the last nongovernmental search and rescue ship operating in the Mediterranean, register after its flag was withdrawn by Panamanian authorities, five international rights organisations said today in an open letter.

The letter was sent to European leaders on the fifth anniversary of the Lampedusa shipwreck, in which at least 368 people died, urging them to offer the Aquarius a flag.

“The Aquarius has saved tens of thousands of lives at sea, filling a gap left by states,” said Judith Sunderland, acting Europe and Central Asia deputy director at Human Rights Watch, on behalf of the organisations. “What better homage to those who died off Lampedusa five years ago than to ensure that the Aquarius—a symbol of solidarity and respect for human life and dignity—can continue its life-saving work.”

The letter was signed by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

SOS MEDITERRANEE and MSF initiated a petition:

For more information and to arrange an interview, please contact:

  • At Amnesty International, Alison Abrahams: +32 2 548 27 73 or +32 483 680 812; or
  • At European Council for Refugees and Exiles, Villads Zahle, Senior Communications Officer: +32 472 23 00 41; or
  • At Human Rights Watch, Judith Sunderland: +39 3386990933; or
  • At International Commission of Jurists, Róisín Pillay, Europe Programme Director: + 32 2 734 84 46; or
  • At International Federation of Human Rights, Maryna Chebat, Press Officer: +33 6 48 05 91 57; or