Aquarius migrants land in Malta after standoff

People from a group of 58 migrants picked up from small boats by the migrant ship Aquarius and transferred to an Armed Forces of Malta patrol boat arrive at Hay Wharf maritime base in Floriana, Malta, on September 30, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 30 September 2018
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Aquarius migrants land in Malta after standoff

  • The migrants included Libyans, sub-Saharan Africans and Afghans
  • Their number includes a five-month pregnant woman and Bella the dog, the first animal rescued with migrants in the Mediterranean

VALLETTA: The Maltese authorities on Sunday finally took 58 migrants from the Aquarius to Valletta after they had waited for days in rough seas on the rescue ship that can no longer go to port after its flag was pulled.
The migrants, including Libyans, sub-Saharan Africans and Afghans, boarded two buses at a Malta Armed Forces base in Valletta after being transferred from the Aquarius to a Maltese patrol boat in international waters.
Their number includes a five-month pregnant woman and Bella the dog, the first animal rescued with migrants in the Mediterranean and they are to be sent on to four European countries after a tense standoff over their fate last week.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR said that it had not yet been decided where which of the migrants — 18 children, 17 women, 23 men and a dog — would go.
“We hope that they will leave Malta in a few days,” UNHCR representative Paolo Biondi told AFP at the base.
France has agreed to take 18 of the migrants, Germany and Spain 15 each and Portugal 10.
Panama pulled its flag from the ship a week ago, meaning the unregistered Aquarius would not be able to leave any port, while other rescue vessels already impounded in Valletta fight a protracted legal battle.
The group were picked up from two boats plying the perilous route between North Africa and Europe last Monday.
The Aquarius, chartered by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee, is the only civilian ship still trying to rescue migrants making the perilous journey from North Africa to Europe.
With no flag, Aquarius was expected to sail for its home port of Marseille in southern France.


Maduro isolated as Latin American nations back Venezuela opposition leader

Updated 17 min 2 sec ago
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Maduro isolated as Latin American nations back Venezuela opposition leader

  • Opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself as interim president on Wednesday
  • Longstanding leftist allies Bolivia and Cuba were the only countries in the region to explicitly voice support for Maduro
LIMA, Peru: Most Latin American nations recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president on Wednesday, leaving Nicolas Maduro ever more isolated as he faces unrest at home and threats from the United States.
c as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru backed Guaido.
The United States and Canada also recognized Guaido — the 35-year-old leader of Venezuela’s opposition-dominated National Assembly — as Venezuela’s legitimate ruler.
However, Mexico — once a vocal member of the Lima Group regional bloc created to pressure Maduro to enact democratic reforms — struck a discordant note under new leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, saying it would not take sides and branding support for Guaido a violation of sovereignty.
The telegenic Guaido declared himself Venezuela’s temporary president on Wednesday at a rally that drew hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans. He accused Maduro of usurping power and promised to create a transitional government.
The diplomatic support for Guaido was a striking move in a region where countries tend to refrain from criticizing each other despite their political differences, underscoring how rattled Venezuela’s neighbors have become by its deteriorating situation.
Criticism of Maduro has grown in recent years as his government has sidelined the National Assembly, held widely-questioned elections and overseen an economic crisis that has forced millions of Venezuelans to flee, mostly to other South American countries.
At the same time, right-leaning governments in South America have risen to power in places where Maduro once had allies.
“Argentina will support all efforts toward rebuilding democracy in Venezuela and reestablishing conditions of life worthy of all its citizens,” Argentine President Mauricio Macri said on Twitter on Wednesday.
Macri took office in 2015, replacing Maduro’s former ally Cristina Fernandez.
Maduro called on the military to stay united and severed diplomatic relations with Washington, which he accused of trying to orchestrate a coup with help from its allies in the region.
US President Donald Trump reiterated that “all options are on the table” and his administration signaled potential new sanctions against Venezuela’s vital oil sector.
Mexico said it would still recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate president and called for dialogue.
“Mexico does not form part (of) this attempt to take sides and promote a type of internal intervention,” presidential spokesman Jesus Ramirez said in a broadcast interview.
Under Lopez Obrador, Mexico has returned to its traditional foreign policy of non-intervention.
“We maintain our position of neutrality and non-intervention toward the conflict in Venezuela,” Ramirez said.