Italy orders seizure of Aquarius migrant rescue boat
Italy has ordered the seizure of a migrant rescue ship, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said, in the latest clampdown on NGOs aiding refugees.
The Aquarius is operated by MSF and the SOS Mediterranee charity and is currently docked in the French port of Marseille.
Rome ordered the seizure of the vessel after it was suspected of passing off 24 tons of potentially toxic waste as ordinary waste, Italian media reported.
MSF bank accounts have been frozen in Italy following the incident, AFP reported.
"All our port operations, including waste management, have always followed standard procedures," MSF said in a statement.
"The relevant authorities have not contested these procedures or identified a public health risk since we started our activities at sea."
"The only crime we see today on the Mediterranean is the total dismantling of the search and rescue system," said MSF Italy director Gabriele Eminente.
He added in the statement that MSF had suffered "two years of defamatory campaigns" against non-governmental organisations.
The rescue boat has been critical to saving lives of migrants and refugees crossing
The International Organisation for Migration says that about 15,000 migrants have drowned in the central Mediterranean since 2013.
During the same period Italy has seen 600,000 migrants land on its coastline, while other European nations have closed their borders.