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Rescue boat carrying 60 migrants arrives in Barcelona after being turned away by Italy and Malta

 Ship operated by the Spanish aid group Proactiva Open Arms allowed to dock in Barcelona

Jake Josling
Wednesday 04 July 2018 15:50 BST
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Migrants aboard the Open Arms aid boat as it approaches the port of Barcelona
Migrants aboard the Open Arms aid boat as it approaches the port of Barcelona (AP)

A rescue boat carrying 60 migrants has arrived in Barcelona after being turned away by Italy and Malta.

The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, came to the ship’s rescue when she, with permission from the Spanish government, told the crew of the vessel that it could dock. The boat was said to have had five women, a nine-year-old and four teenagers on board.

The ship, which is operated by the Spanish aid group Proactiva Open Arms, was first turned away by Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini. The right-wing politician said the rescue boat “can forget about arriving in an Italian port”; he then suggested that the boat should dock in Malta, which he claimed was the nearest port.

The Maltese government made sure to quickly declare that their ports were off-limits to the vessel when interior minister Michael Farrugia said: “Quit spreading incorrect news, dragging Malta into it for no reason.” Mr Farrugia then claimed that the small Italian island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily, was closer to the rescue boat than their shores.

The ship is the third vessel to be turned away by Mr Salvini and the Italian government in the space of a month. Last week, a German rescue boat docked in Malta after Italy refused to take it. Earlier last month, Mr Salvini also stopped a ship carrying 600 migrants from docking on Italian shores.

Proactiva Open Arms has had several run-ins with Mr Salvini. In March, the group had their boat impounded in Italy after they docked there. Prosecutors investigating the boat’s crew alleged the rescue had violated the sovereignty of Libya and constituted illegal immigration.

Earlier this year it was reported that the Italian government had given $245m (£185m) to the Libyan government in order to help train and equip their coastguard to prevent people leaving the country by sea.

This led to a decrease in migrants attempting to flee Libya this way. However, migrant advocacy groups argue that keeping migrants in Libya traps them in unsafe and inhumane conditions.

Proactiva founder Oscar Camps spoke out against the trouble his organisation faced at the time.

When addressing the press in Barcelona, Mr Camps said: “The challenges [for rescuers] are increasing. The tone of the debate is becoming more heated and we have seen a campaign to delegitimise NGOs working in the Med. Today rescues have become a criminal offence.”

The Missing Migrant Project claims that 1,405 migrants have died in the Mediterranean so far this year. Many of these deaths occur as people flee war-torn and impoverished nations using rubber boats that are unsuitable for the sea.

Proactiva said the migrants are from 14 countries and are in good health following their arrival in Barcelona.

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