Spain offers to take in Aquarius ship carrying over 600 refugees

Jun 12, 2018, 03:35
Spain offers to take in Aquarius ship carrying over 600 refugees

Italy and Malta are the closest ports to Libya.

Italy's new deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, had said the country would not allow the ship to dock in any of its ports.

Today's decision of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of Spain to exceptionally allow a rescue ship, Aquarius, to dock in his country is courageous and welcome.

The government statement said Spain wanted to comply with its worldwide responsibilities on humanitarian crises. "It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a "safe harbour" to these people in accordance with worldwide law".

Spain has now announced it will allow the boat to dock in the eastern port of Valenica.

It suggested that the hundreds on board "are running out of provisions".

However, journalists aboard the Aquarius are now reporting that the organisers of the rescue mission, from the NGOs SOS Méditerranée and Medecins Sans Frontieres, have decided travelling to Valencia would be too risky.

Echoing similar calls by the United Nations and the bloc's biggest member state Germany, Schinas added: "For the commission there is first and foremost a humanitarian imperative, we are talking about people".

The outgoing Democratic Party government had already intensified cooperation with Libyan authorities to stop departures and enable Libyan coast guard forces to intercept migrant boats in worldwide waters and take people back to horrific conditions in arbitrary detention in Libya.

Despite the diplomatic pressure, Italy and Malta held firm, with Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini clearly using the high seas drama as a pretext to force the hand of Italy's European neighbors.

"Italy has stopped bowing our heads and obeying".

The Maltese government insisted it was "acting in full conformity with its worldwide obligations".

SOS Mediterranee, the charity co-operating the migrant ship, said it was awaiting instructions about where to disembark from Italy's coastguard, which coordinated the sea rescues. "The details of this agreement are not known and we don't know if Salvini will inherit that deal", he said. It added that the Aquarius "is still waiting for definitive instructions regarding the port of safety". The vessel with 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women on board is stranded in the Mediterranean Sea. "Malta will observe prevailing laws", its government said in a brief statement. I would welcome opportunity to discuss with concerned governments arrangements for search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean and to avoid any repetition of the situation in which the Aquarius found itself.

"The people we saved yesterday were in a hard condition, at least 50 were at risk of drowning. We need to have an idea of what port to go to, something that up to now we haven't had".

Since 2015, when more than a million migrants and refugees arrived on Europe's shores, governments across the continent have sought to fortify their countries' borders.

The dispute was among the first consequences of political upheaval in Italy, where anti-migrant leaders recently rose to power with a pledge to crack down on new arrivals from the Middle East and Africa.

The number of migrants arriving in Spain has been on the rise, Benavides reports, while the number of sea arrivals in Italy "has dropped 77 percent compared to this time a year ago, following controversial deals with the Libyan Coast Guard and investigations into NGO search-and-rescues".

Some in Italy have offered to take in migrants.

Both the mayors of Valencia and Barcelona offered to take the boat in at their ports.

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