Protesters in Paris support migrant rescue ship Aquarius

People gather to support the Aquarius ship that rescues migrants operated by the humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee, in the Old-Port of Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. The Aquarius which is docked in Marseille harbour, SOS Mediterranee said Thursday the Aquarius is making a stopover while waiting for a new flag and is "determined to go back to sea as soon as possible." The group urged European governments to find a new flag for the vessel to secure its future after Panama's maritime authority removed the ship's registration. Placards reads "Aquarius saves lives-To save a life it's to save humanity". (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

PARIS (AP) — Hundreds of people, many wearing orange to evoke life vests, demonstrated Saturday in Paris to back a private humanitarian ship that rescues migrants who are making the dangerous voyage to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea.

Demonstrators at the Place de la Republique carried signs reading “Saving lives: A duty not a crime,” ”Save the Aquarius,” and other slogans backing the ship.

Placard-waving supporters of the Aquarius also gathered in the southern port city of Marseille and in the northern city of Lille.

The Aquarius’ operator, SOS Mediterranee, is urging European governments to find a new flag for the ship after Panama’s maritime authority removed its registration. The aid group says without a flag, the ship will have to stay in port.

Migrant sea arrivals to Europe are sharply down this year but the issue of immigration is still a hot political topic across the continent.

The International Organization for Migration says that 1,741 migrants have drowned at sea this year trying to cross the Mediterranean.

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