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Spain to offer “safe port” for ‘Aquarius’ migrant rescue ship in Valencia

The vessel is carrying more than 600 migrants rescued from the sea by MSF and Sos Mediterranée, but had been refused permission to dock by Italy and Malta

Migrants on board the ‘Aquarius.’
Migrants on board the ‘Aquarius.’

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez gave instructions on Monday for Spain to offer a “safe port” to the vessel Aquarius, which is currently at sea with more than 600 migrants and refugees on board. The docking of the boat in Italy had already been blocked by the country’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, of the Northern League political party, as well as in Malta.

“It is our obligation to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people, as such meeting with the obligations of International Law,” said Sánchez in a press release made public on Monday.

The regional premier of Valencia, Ximo Puig, also stated on Monday that permission for the boat to dock had been granted by the deputy prime minister, Carmen Calvo. “She conveyed to me that the government would designate the port of Valencia as a safe port for this humanitarian operation, which the government will undertake hand in hand with the UN,” Puig said, adding that it was good news for Spain and Valencia, which are considered open and welcoming.

For now, however, the Aquarius is yet to set sail for Spain. “Up until now we haven’t received any notification that we have safe port in Spain,” the MSF spokesperson on board the vessel stated at around 3pm Monday. The captain and the NGO heads who operate the ship are awaiting instructions from the Italian authorities, given that the Rome Maritime Coordination Center will have to inform the captain of the port where he can disembark the migrants. 

The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, and the mayor of Valencia, Joan Ribó, had previously offered to take in the 629 migrants who are currently on the Aquarius, after having been rescued from the Mediterranean by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Sos Mediterranée. “Above all else we have to save human lives,” said Colau, when asked about the crisis during a breakfast meeting.

Ribó stated that he found it “completely inhuman” that a boat “could be left adrift in this situation.” He added that the Valencian capital would be “mobilizing all its resources so that Valencia will be the docking point if there are no other options.”

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