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‘Open Arms’ rescue ship arrives in Spain with more than 300 migrants on board

The vessel, which is carrying 139 minors, had been refused permission to dock by Italy and Malta before getting the go-ahead from the Spanish authorities

The ‘Open Arms’ arrives in Algeciras.
The ‘Open Arms’ arrives in Algeciras. REUTERS

The rescue ship Open Arms, operated by the NGO Proactiva Open Arms, arrived at the Spanish port of Crinavis, in Algeciras, at 9am today, carrying 311 migrants – 139 of them children – who were rescued from three craft last week off the Lybian coast. The Spanish government authorized the ship’s docking on Saturday.

The Red Cross has so far confirmed that the migrants are from Ivory Coast, Mali, Somalia and Sudan

“The sailing over the last few hours has been very comfortable, and we can now see Cabo de Gata off the starboard side, and the Sierra Nevada in the distance,” explained Gerard Canals, the NGO’s mission chief, on Thursday.

The rescued migrants have been taken to the on-site temporary migrant holding center. The Red Cross has so far confirmed that they are from Ivory Coast, Mali, Somalia and Sudan.

Before Spain gave permission for the Open Arms to dock, a number of other European countries had refused entry, including Italy and Malta. The latter country did authorize the evacuation of a woman and her newborn baby via helicopter.

The Italian interior minister, the far-right politician Matteo Salvini, posted a message on social media expressing his rejection of the ship’s docking. “My answer is clear: Italian ports are closed! For human traffickers and those who help them, the party is over.”

This is the second time that Algeciras has received the ‘Open Arms,’ after it arrived in August with 87 migrants

One of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s first moves when he come to power in June was to offer “safe port” to the Aquarius migrant-rescue ship, which was carrying more than 600 migrants rescued from the sea by the NGOs MSF and Sos Mediterranée, but had been refused permission to dock by both Italy and Malta.

This is the second time that Algeciras has received the Open Arms, after it arrived in August with 87 migrants, also rescued off the Libyan coast.

While the number of migrants arriving on European coasts has fallen drastically since 2016, arrivals in Spain have doubled, reaching as many as a thousand people a week this year so far, according to news agency Reuters.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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