Médecins Sans Frontières will withdraw its rescue vessel MV Aquarius

The medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières has been forced to terminate its search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

The charity said a sustained campaign of obstruction by the Italian government brought about the decision to withdraw its rescue vessel MV Aquarius.

Over 2,000 migrants have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year.

Tom De Kok who's on board the Aquarius says forcing the MSF vessel out of the region will mean more lives are lost.

“Our work does save lives,” he said.

“If you ask, will our absence result in death; the answer is unequivocally, yes.”

A number of humanitarian vessels have been blocked from entering ports in Italy and Malta in recent months.

MSF said Italian authorities have been working to delegitimise, slander and obstruct aid organisations providing assistance to vulnerable people.

It said the Aquarius had been stripped of its registration twice this year and now faces “patently absurd” allegations of criminal activity.

“This is a dark day,” said charity’s general director Nelke Mander.

“Not only has Europe failed to provide search and rescue capacity, it has also actively sabotaged others’ attempts to save lives.

“The end of Aquarius means more deaths at sea, and more needless deaths that will go un-witnessed.”

The Aquarius, which has assisted nearly 30,000 people since 2016, was the last ship working to rescue stricken migrants in the region.