No Swiss flag for Aquarius, says government

The Aquarius off the coast of Marseille, France, August 2018. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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The Swiss government has rejected calls to allow humanitarian ship ‘Aquarius’ to fly under the Swiss flag. The vessel, which rescues stricken migrants in the Mediterranean, is currently docked and immobile in Marseille.

In a written response to parliamentarians on Monday, the Federal Council rejected the idea of accrediting a Swiss flag to the ship, a request made by several politicians from left-wing and centrist parties.

Efforts to rescue and manage stricken migrants in the Mediterranean need a European response, the government said. This should respect the rules of maritime rescue, provide safe ports of disembarkation, and offer a mechanism for distributing incoming refugees.

Isolated endeavours like a Swiss-flag-flying Aquarius would only compromise a common response and end up being unhelpful, it said.

+ More on the push by some Swiss politicians to accord the Swiss flag

The ship, which previously operated under a Gibraltarian and, then, a Panamanian flag, has seen both countries withdraw their support. It is currently docked in the French port of Marseille while it awaits further news.

Chartered by the Doctors Without Borders and SOS Méditerranée organisations, the Aquarius has rescued some 30,000 migrants over two years. Following the closure of Italian ports earlier this year, the ship became the last remaining NGO rescue ship operating in the central Mediterranean.

As well as the demands of parliamentarians, a NGO-coordinated petition signed by some 27,000 people was also handed in to the government in October, demanding that the Aquarius be given the Swiss flag.

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