Open Arms: France Agrees to welcome 40 migrants, ship still stuck

General News
The ship of the Proactiva Open Arms NGO off Lampedusa in Italy on August 17, 2019.

The French government said it was ready Sunday 18th August, 2019 to accommodate 40 of the hundred migrants stranded on the humanitarian ship off Lampedusa.

France has pledged to welcome 40 people of the hundred migrants currently stranded on the Open Arms, the ship of the Spanish NGO Proactiva off Lampedusa, announced Sunday 18th August 2019 to AFP the Ministry of the interior.

The humanitarian ship, which unloaded 27 unaccompanied minors in Italy on  Saturday after two weeks of sailing, still carries 105 adults and two children on board, according to the Spanish government.

“The coordination of solidarity is maintained” between countries that have committed to collect migrants, says Place Beauvau.

These 40 people will have to be “in need of protection”, that is to say to fulfil the criteria to obtain the refugee status, adds the Ministry of the Interior, which will deploy in the coming days a mission of Ofpra ( French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons) in Spain if the boat docked at Algeciras.

Proposal for berthing in Spain rejected by the NGO

Some time before the French declaration, the Spanish government proposed this Sunday to welcome in the port of Algeciras (extreme south) the ship Open Arms , facing the “inconceivable” refusal of Italy to offer a port of ‘Home.

The head of the Spanish government, the Socialist Pedro Sanchez, “ordered today (Sunday) the authorization of the port of Algeciras to receive the Open Arms boat”, which is currently facing the Italian island of Lampedusa, in Because of the “emergency situation” on board and facing the “inconceivable decision of the Italian authorities to close all their ports,” the government said in a statement.

But the NGO rejected the Spanish proposal, deeming it “absolutely unfeasible” while the emergency situation on board the ship after 17 days at sea does not allow to undertake this long crossing of the Mediterranean.

“We can not agree to go to a Spanish port because we are in a state of an extreme humanitarian emergency, what they (the rescued migrants) need is to be landed now,” said Laura. Lanuza, spokesperson for Proactiva Open Arms.

Its founder, Oscar Camps, said it would take five days for the boat to travel nearly 1,000 nautical miles to Algeciras.

At the same time, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a final call for “the Italian authorities to allow the disembarkation” of migrants. “The Italian government can be assured that as soon as the migrants have landed, they will be immediately distributed” among the countries that have offered to host them: France, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania and Spain, according to the text.

In addition, the Spanish government has indicated that it is “considering the possibility of appealing to the European Union or the institutions guaranteeing respect for human rights and international maritime law” to challenge Italy’s attitude.

Explosive situation

On Friday, Marc Reig, the ship’s commander, described an “explosive” situation on board, noting that some migrants could “jump in” to reach the mainland “to swim”.

“Everyone is psychologically broken, this situation has become unsustainable,” he told Spanish television TVE. In a tweet, the NGO mentioned threats of suicide and demanded a general landing for “humanitarian emergency”.

Italy’s interior minister, right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, reluctantly agreed on Saturday to let 27 unaccompanied migrant minors land. But he continues to refuse the landing of the rest of the passengers, despite the commitments of other countries.

“The Commission has had intensive contacts over the past week and we are very grateful for the cooperation of France, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania and Spain,” commented on Friday. Commission spokeswoman Vanessa Rock.

But “no European country has made formal steps to accommodate the migrants on board,” say sources at the Italian Interior Ministry, who demand concrete commitments.

Political crisis

This umpteenth confrontation between a relief ship and the Italian Minister of the Interior took place this time in the context of the political crisis that is shaking Rome.

Matteo Salvini shattered on August 8 the coalition government formed by his political party, the League (far right), with the Five-Star Movement (M5S, antisystem). He called for the speedy organization of elections, while he is credited with 36 to 38 per cent of voting intentions in the polls.

But a political front seems to be forming against him, unexpectedly through an alliance between his ex-M5S partner and the Democratic Party (centre-left).

Migration policy has taken centre stage in this crisis, pending a possible vote of no confidence against the government in the Senate on Tuesday.

For his part, the Spaniard Pedro Sanchez, also in political crisis, was in recent months back on the welcoming migration policy of its beginnings in June. After having collected the Aquarius and its more than 600 migrants, then three times the Open Arms, he had abruptly in August refused to receive the Aquarius again, and had since allowed no arrival of the humanitarian ship.

Meanwhile, the ship Ocean Viking, NGOs SOS Mediterranean and Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), was also looking for a port, with 350 migrants on board.

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