Germany denies scuppering migrant rescue with shipping rule

BERLIN (AP) — The German government on Wednesday rejected claims by humanitarian groups that a change to ship safety rules will prevent the rescue of migrants at sea.

Three groups that operate migrant rescue vessels in the Mediterranean accused Germany’s Transport Ministry of “insidious sabotage” by making them comply with rules designed for commercial ships rather than leisure boats, as is currently the case.

The groups Mare Liberum, Mission Lifeline and RESQSHIP said the new safety requirements “are not feasible practically” and were introduced without prior consultation.

Transport Ministry spokesman Tim Alexandrin denied the groups’ claim that they were being targeted because of their work and said the changes bring Germany in line with its international obligations.

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“The change was made purely out of consideration for ship safety,” Alexandrin told reporters in Berlin.

He said shipping associations were consulted before the rule change.

While there was no specific incident that prompted the rule change, “with issues of safety, one shouldn’t wait until something happens,” Alexandrin said.

The humanitarian groups say they have saved thousands of people since 2015. Hundreds of migrants have also drowned each year trying to reach Europe from Africa.

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