Thursday

21st Nov 2019

Open Arms may face fine in Spain 

The Spanish rescue boat Open Arms is liable to a fine of up €901,000 from Spanish authorities for committing a "very serious offence against maritime safety," according to the Spanish Law of Ports and Merchant Marine

The captain of the boat could also lose his license for five years. 

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After being blocked for about 100 days in the port of Barcelona, the Open Arms was authorised on April this year to "transport humanitarian material," such as medicines and first-aid kits.

However, the vessel did not have the official permission to carry out "search and rescue missions" in the central Mediterranean, according to the Spanish authorities.

According to the Spanish authorities the Open Arms ship was blocked from operating in the area between January and April this year for security reasons, including the fact that Maltese and Italian ports were closed and that the vessel did not meet the requirements to make long journeys with passages.

Deputy PM of Spain, Carmen Calvo, has reminded the captain of the Open Arms that they did not have authorisation for the last rescue procedure and that "no one is exempted" from compliance with the law, including "a ship like this."

Open Arms disagrees

The communication officer of the NGO Proactiva Open Arms Laura Lanuza told EUobserver that "this fine is an administrative procedure that must follow its course" and that their lawyers are working on it.

"Our objective is to protect human life in the Mediterranean, not to search for people actively," she said, adding that "rescuing shipwrecked people is an obligation for every ship in international law."

Lanuza further commented that the vessel has been "following all protocols from the first minute", while condemning the lack of rescue boats in the Mediterranean.

At the end of June, when the Open Arms boat was in Italian waters, the crew decided to enter Libyan waters. 

On August 1, they rescued 55 people in Libyan waters, the next day 69 in Maltese waters. On August 10 they took in 39 people more after having received a request from the Maltese authorities to activate the rescue, according to Lanuza.

On August 20 all the remaining people on the ship were allowed to disembark on the Italian island of Lampedusa on Tuesday night, after 19 days on board. 

The Commission spokeswomen Natasha Bertaud has welcomed "the fact that the migrants have been able to disembark the vessel and they are now receiving the care that they need" and has confirmed that Brussels "is ready" to start coordinating the relocation efforts of migrants with the Italian authorities. 

The Commission has also acknowledged "the cooperation and solidarity showed by Spain in particular which offered to disembark the migrants and by the member states that have said that they are willing to receive some of these migrants."

These countries are France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Portugal.

Ocean Viking's case

Additionally, the European Commission has confirmed that they are in contact with member states regarding the case of Ocean Vikings rescue boat and that they would "welcome the same spirit of solidarity which has been shown by member states in the Open Arms case."

The Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking vessel, operated by international charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Franco-German charity SOS Mediterranee, is still waiting for a safe port to be assigned in order to disembark 365 people (103 minors) on board.

Feature

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French president Emmanuel Macron is pressing for an automated distribution of rescued migrants at sea - but also stands accused of tightening asylum rules in his own country as a response to the far-right.

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