Saturday

21st Sep 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. 

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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

EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock

No EU country willing to open its ports for the Spanish rescue ship Open Arms, with France and others turning to the European Commission for help.

Eight EU states take migrants stranded on NGO boats

France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania have agreed to relocate the 49 migrants stuck on two NGO boats moored, for almost three weeks, off Malta's coast.

France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

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.

'Migration' is now 'protecting European way of life'

The upcoming European Commission has shuffled migration policy into a euphemistic new "Protecting our European Way of Life" European commissioner portfolio, headed by former spokesman Margartis Schinas. Some MEPs are not happy.

News in Brief

  1. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'
  2. UK secrecy on Brexit holds back wider EU talks
  3. Feminist mass protest in Spain after 19 murders this summer
  4. Global climate strike starts ahead of UN summit
  5. UK Brexit minister to meet Barnier on Friday
  6. Russia-Ukraine gas deal talks show 'progress'
  7. Nobel economist: Ireland 'not good EU citizen' on taxes
  8. Germany takes carbon border tax on board

Opinion

Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'

As ex-national leaders, we know it's not easy to withstand public pressures and put collective interests ahead of domestic concerns. But without strong institutional leadership, EU values themselves risk ringing hollow, not least to those seeking protection on Europe's shores.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Europe goes to New York This WEEK
  2. Nine EU 'commissioners' asked to clarify declarations
  3. Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril
  4. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  5. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  6. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  7. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  8. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us