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Open Arms may finally face sanction from Madrid

Having been immobilized for twenty days off the coast of Italy, the Spanish rescue ship has finally been able to land the hundred migrants present on board, on the island of Lampedusa. But it may have been a costly exercise.

Published: August 22, 2019, 10:20 am


    As it happens, the NGO of the same name never received prior authorization to carry out relief operations off the coat of Libya, reported FranceInfo. It could therefore be sanctioned by the Spanish government.

    Last April, the Open Arms was allowed to drop anchor in Barcelona to load up on humanitarian supplies to the Greek islands of Samos and Lesbos, both flooded with migrants. But the ship defied a ban and set sail to Libya to rescue illegal immigrants, despite potential sanctions.

    “If I have to pay by jail or a fine for saving the lives of a few people, I will do it,” the founder of the Spanish organisation, Oscar Camps, said at the time. In this case, the NGO risks a fine of up to 901 000 euros.

    “Everyone knows what he can do and what he can not do,” the Deputy President of the Socialist government, Carmen Calvo, has noted on this issue. According to her: “Open Arms does not have a license to rescue.”

    Calvo added: “The boat’s commander knows this and the Minister of Transport, on whom the merchant navy depends, has repeatedly told him this on several occasions.”

    The Spanish government had planned for the Audaz, a Navy vessel to accompany the Open Arms back to Spain, something that will now be impossible since an Italian prosecutor ordered it to be seized.

    “What I know is that I have to go to Lampedusa, and once there, I’ll get more concrete instructions,” said the captain of the Audaz, Emilio Damiá, told Spanish daily El Pais. “According to how everything develops and what the government determines, we will react accordingly.”

    For its part, France had proposed to welcome 40 migrants from the Open Arms, through its Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner. It has sent a delegation from the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) to study the situation related Spain.

    On Wednesday, August 21, the delegation from Opfra will arrive to examine the situation of the illegal immigrants it will receive on its soil.

    “These situations are a strong reminder of the importance of having a mechanism for managing migration issues at the European level because, without this, these situations will be repeated and are obviously not acceptable to migrants” , lamented government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye, confirming that “forty people will be able to apply for asylum in France” .

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