Italian authorities have ordered the preventive seizure of the migrant rescue ship Aquarius alleging that the vessel had illegally disposed potentially harmful waste.

According to the authority, some people involved with the operation of Aquarius have disposed of contaminated clothes, leftover food, as well as medical supplies and syringes used by the migrants.

The latest order follows an investigation conducted by the prosecutors in Catania, Sicily, regarding the unclassified disposal of on-board waste.

The prosecutors have accused 24 people comprising members of Doctors Without Borders, one of the support groups of Aquarius, and officials of a Sicilian company that manages the disposal of waste, nytimes.com reported.

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As per the charge, the accused persons were involved in the illegal dumping of waste in southern Italian ports between January last year and May this year.

The disposed garments worn by the migrants from Libya could have been infected with HIV, meningitis, and tuberculosis, reported theguardian.com.

“The tragic current situation is leading to an absence of humanitarian search-and-rescue vessels operating in the central Mediterranean.”

Aquarius is operated by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and SOS Méditerranée.

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SOS Méditerranée Operations head Frederic Penard said: “This is another strike in the series of attacks criminalising humanitarian aid at sea.

“The tragic current situation is leading to an absence of humanitarian search-and-rescue vessels operating in the central Mediterranean, while the mortality rate is on the rise.”

Since September, Aquarius has been docked in the port of Marseille, France, after its registration was revoked by Panama Maritime Authority (PMA).

SOS Méditerranée said that repeated political pressure had forced it to temporarily stop search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean sea.