Why is it assumed that Italy should have accepted migrants from the NGO ship the Aquarius?

France urges 'cynical' Italy to rethink stance on migrant ship

From comments: They had no permission from Italy in the first place and shouldn't have been in the area at all, so why is Italy blamed rather than the NGO who entered Italy's waters without permission?

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    From your link: “The NGOs have said the time to get to Valencia would be too long given the humanitarian situation on board ... We are solemnly asking Italian authorities to reconsider their position and welcome the refugees on board.” It was a matter of proximity, not one of international law.
    – yannis
    Jun 12, 2018 at 18:23
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    I can understand from a proximity point of view, but they had no permission from Italy in the first place and shouldn't have been in the area at all, so who is at fault here? Italy? The NGO?
    – user_42
    Jun 12, 2018 at 19:22

1 Answer 1


Because of where the ship is located: The BBC offer this map enter image description here

The obvious destination is Sicily, given the location, the principle of non-refoulment, that prevents the immediate return to Libya. (And the potential threat that the boat could be under if it were to return to Libya). Moreover Malta has also said that it won't take the migrants. Malta is a lot smaller than Italy.

This was the intention of the Aquarius, before permission to dock was refused.

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    Shouldn't they have to clear their plan with Italy before they pick up a boatload of people? If they are illegally intending to land with a lot of people, why is Italy receiving flak for turning them away?
    – user_42
    Jun 12, 2018 at 19:10
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    That comes back to the principle of non-refoulment. Once asylum-seekers land on a country's shore, that country is required by international law to process their asylum claims and grant them if the seekers are eligible. As such, Italy seeks to prevent the ship from ever docking. The reason countries were pushing Italy to let this ship dock was that there were people onboard the ship who needed medical attention, so by turning away the ship they were potentially killing people. Spain unexpectedly stepped in to take the asylum-seekers after Italy and Malta refused, despite their proximity.
    – Eremi
    Jun 12, 2018 at 19:14
  • @Eremi: You said something false. The Italian government didn't leave those people alone. They offered to take vulnerable people but the offer was declined in order to avoid separating families, even if temporarily. The government maintained contact with the ship, and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte personally sent two patrol boats with doctors on board to monitorize the situation. Finally, the ship was accompanied to Spain by Italian boats. Jun 21, 2018 at 14:13
  • I didn't say they left them entirely alone. The original rescue operation was conducted by Italian Navy ships. Despite the fact that Italian doctors were helping, other countries (e.g. France) argued that wasn't enough and said that the ship needed to dock in Italy. This was the stated rationale from the countries pushing Italian acceptance of the asylum-seekers, independent of whether or not there were efforts to help them in process.
    – Eremi
    Jun 21, 2018 at 15:47
  • @Eremi: So are you saying the other countries argued Italy "was potentially killing people"? Or is it your own wording? Because that's what I am saying is wrong, due to the care given. Jun 21, 2018 at 17:19

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