Sat, Dec 29, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Boat disembarks 310 migrants in Spain

‘TAXI SERVICE’:More than 56,000 migrants have arrived in Spain by sea this year and at least 769 have died trying, while 1,300 died trying to reach Italy and Malta, officials said

AFP, SAN ROQUE, Spain

Rescue boat Open Arms is seen docked with migrants rescued in the central Mediterranean Sea at the Center for Temporary Assistance to Foreigners at the port of Algeciras in Campamento, Spain, yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

A Spanish charity rescue boat yesterday arrived in a southern Spanish port carrying 310 migrants rescued off the coast of Libya a week ago.

The Open Arms docked in the port of Crinavis, in San Roque, just across from Gibraltar near the city of Algeciras at about 8am.

Proactiva Open Arms, the Spanish charity that runs the vessel, tweeted the details on Thursday.

Red Cross workers were on hand to provide food, clothes and medical assistance to the migrants on board, including people from Somalia, Nigeria and Mali.

Police identified them before moving them to shelters.

The charity operates in the sea between Libya and southern Europe, coming to the aid of migrants who get into difficulties during the crossing from northern Africa.

It rescued the migrants, including pregnant women, children and babies, from three vessels on Friday last week.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party government on Saturday authorized the ship to dock in Spain after Italy and Malta both refused it access.

Libya, France and Tunisia did not respond to Proactiva Open Arms’ requests for permission to dock, Madrid said.

On Saturday, a newborn baby and his mother were helicoptered from the boat to Malta, while a 14-year-old with a serious skin infection was taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Photographs and videos posted by the charity showed the rest of the rescued migrants marking Christmas at sea listening to music and singing. Some children wore red Santa hats as they huddled together on the small rescue ship.

Another ship operated by Proactiva Open Arms, the Astral, on Monday delivered blankets, medicine and food to the Open Arms.

The Open Arms resumed its patrols of the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast late last month, along with two other ships run by migrant aid groups.

In August, it had suspended its missions, saying that governments, and Italian Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini in particular, were “criminalizing” migrant rescue charities.

Salvini has denied such groups access to Italy’s ports, calling them a “taxi service” for migrants.

Malta has also been increasingly unwilling to host rescue vessels.

“Your rhetoric and your message will, like everything in this life, end,” Proactiva Open Arms founder Oscar Camps told Salvini on Twitter earlier this week. “But you should know that in a few decades your descendants will be ashamed of what you do and say.”

Yesterday’s docking was to be the first time since August that Spain has allowed a charity rescue ship to dock and disembark migrants in the country.

Sanchez made international headlines shortly after he took office in June by helping French charity rescue ship the Aquarius.

He cleared it to dock in the eastern port of Valencia with more than 600 migrants on board after it had been turned away by Italy and Malta as tensions mounted in Europe over migration policy.

Madrid allowed the Open Arms to dock three times in July and August, but refused to let the Aquarius return a second time.

Instead, it negotiated the distribution of the migrants it had rescued among several EU countries.

More than 1,300 migrants have perished trying to reach Italy or Malta since the beginning of the year, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

That makes this stretch of the Mediterranean the most deadly for migrants attempting the crossing to Europe.

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