Tuesday 04 December 2018
Geneva. On November 30th, the Swiss Parliament has responded to a parliamentary inquiry on the possibility of letting the Aquarius, search-and-rescue (SAR) ship run by SOS Méditerranée and Médecins sans Frontières, denying the vessel to sail under the Swiss flag. The issue has stirred a national debate in the country known for its semi-direct democracy. It has been stated by the Swiss Federal Council that the rescue operations rather require a sustainable and coordinated effort by European countries to manage the admission of refugees.
Two months ago, a group of Swiss parliamentarians have called for the possibility of allowing the SAR vessel to fly under the Swiss flag after a series of events that have led the vessel flagless. The Aquarius has since been idled in Marseille and hindered from carrying out rescue operations in the central Mediterranean Sea.
SOS Méditerranée is a civil-society led NGO based in Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland carrying out search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea since 2015. The organization is well-known for the professionalism of its maritime rescue crew as well as for their respect of well-established humanitarian principles as demonstrated through the signature of the “Voluntary Code of Conduct for Search and Rescue Operations undertaken by civil society Non-Government Organisations in the Mediterranean Sea” in February 2017.
Human Rights at Sea will continue to closely monitor the situation.