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Spanish rescue ship carrying over 120 migrants calls for safe port

Authorities in Valencia and Catalonia have asked the government for permission to allow ‘Open Arms’ to dock

‘Open Arms’ rescue ship.
‘Open Arms’ rescue ship.

The Spanish rescue ship Open Arms has called for a safe port to dock after rescuing more than 120 migrants at sea, including two children and nine-month-old twins.

Last year, 630 migrants on the humanitarian ship Aquarius docked in Valencia

Seven months ago, the Spanish government banned the NGO Proactiva Open Arms from completing rescue missions in the central Mediterranean Sea, on the basis that the Open Arms ship was not equipped to carry out long journeys. But at the end of June, the NGO ignored the ban and sailed to the zone to help rescue migrants at sea. On Thursday, the Open Arms crew rescued 53 people and two babies from a small boat, and later that night saved 69 other migrants from the sea. Two heavily pregnant women were evacuated from the ship on Saturday.

The Socialist (PSOE) government, which welcomed 400 migrants on board the Open Arms into the country last year, has refused to give the ship a safe port to dock. “We hope they are acting in accordance with international conventions and national regulations,” said acting government spokesperson Isabel Celaá on Friday. The Open Arms has also been denied entry by authorities in Malta and Italy, which have introduced strict closed-port policies to rescue ships.

But the mayor of Valencia, Joan Ribó, has said he will ask the Spanish government for permission to allow the boat to dock in the city. According to the mayor, Valencia “is a welcoming, open city with an ethical and humane duty to the people who risk their lives fleeing from terror, war and misery,” municipal sources told Spanish news agency EFE.

The Italian Coast Guard evacuates two pregnant women from the ‘Open Arms’ rescue ship.
The Italian Coast Guard evacuates two pregnant women from the ‘Open Arms’ rescue ship. OPEN ARMS

Ribó made the offer after getting the approval of the premier of Valencia, Ximo Puig, of the PSOE, who said the region is willing to welcome Open Arms “if the ship does not find a closer or more appropriate port.”

Catalan premier Quim Torra also offered the region’s ports to the Open Arms on Friday, while Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau said the ship was welcome in the Catalan capital. The regional government of Extremadura said it is willing to take in 10 of the migrants.

In June 17, 2018, 630 migrants who were rescued by the humanitarian ship Aquarius were brought to the port of Valencia, after the Spanish government agreed to offer the boat a safe port to avert a humanitarian crisis.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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