A rescue boat carrying 59 migrants who were rescued off Libya on Saturday June 30th was travelling to Barcelona on Sunday after both Italy and Malta refused to let the vessel’s master dock in their ports.
Rescue vessel Open Arms (IMO 7325887),which is run by Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms, said late on Saturday that it was “going home” after receiving an offer of a safe port from Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau, Reuters reported.
The charity condemned what it described as “inhuman policies and closed ports in Italy and Malta” and said that the boat would arrive in Barcelona on Wednesday July 4th.
Proactiva Open Arms said the migrants on board included five women and four children, and were of various nationalities, including Palestinians, Syrians and Guineans.
Italy’s statement that it would not welcome the vessel caused a fresh stand-off with Malta. Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of coalition members League Party, said there would be no exception to his policy of refusing to let humanitarian boats dock in Italy. He noted that Malta was the nearest port of call. Maltese Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia responded that the rescue had taken place closer to the Italian island of Lampedusa than to Malta. He told Salvini to “stop giving false information and involving Malta without any reason.” The diplomatic spat took place in full public view on Twitter.
Last week Malta let the German charity ship Lifeline dock in Valletta after the vessel had spent nearly a week at sea following Italy’s decision to close its ports to rescue vessels run by non-government organizations.
Malta prime minister Joseph Muscat said that the gesture was a one-time resolution to a crisis situation. The following day Malta announced it would not allow any more charity boats to dock.
Malta detained the vessel Lifeline last week, and yesterday, Monday July 2nd, during a hearing, Malta police inspector Mario Haber postulated that Lifeline, which claims to operate under a Dutch flag, should have been registered as a yacht instead of as a commercial vessel, noting that the vessel was registered with a Dutch yacht club but Netherlands was not the flag state. The court appointed representatives to board the ship and inspect its contents, including its computers, with the prosecution saying it could not rule out charges. Magistrate Joe Mifsud set bail at €10,000 for Lifeline captain Claus-Peter Reisch, adding that he must stay on his ship and cannot leave Malta. Another hearing will be held on Thursday July 5th. Reisch asked before the hearing “what kind of world are we living in when sea rescuers are criminalized?”
Meanwhile, on Monday July 2nd Malta detained rescue vessel Sea Watch 3 , operated by a German charity. The captain requested to leave port after undergoing maintenance, but the port authority refused, a Sea Watch spokeswoman said. The port authorities said that the vessel’s status was “under review”.
1974-built, Spain-flagged, 427 gt Open Arms is owned and managed by Proactiva Open Arms of Barcelona, Spain.