Spain invites stranded migrants to disembark in Majorca or Menorca | News | DW | 18.08.2019

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Spain invites stranded migrants to disembark in Majorca or Menorca

The Spanish government has offered rescue boat 'Open Arms' to dock in one of the Balearic Island ports. The invite comes a day after the charity vessel declined to disembark in Algeciras, citing an emergency on board.

The Spanish government announced on Monday that hundreds of stranded migrants off the coast of Italy were welcome to disembark in either Majorca or Menorca.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez initially invited the captain to dock the ship in the port city of Algeciras in the south of Spain near Gibraltar, but the ship's spokesperson declined because the port was too far.

"If an agreement has indeed been reached, it's essential for Italy and Spain to take responsibility for ensuring, by providing the necessary means, that these people finally disembark at a safe harbor," Open Arms said in a statement.

Open Arms said on Monday that disembarking in Majorca would add another three days to their journey.

The Open Arms, a charity rescue vessel, picked up the migrants off the coast of Libya.

The migrants, most of whom are African, had been waiting off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, hoping to disembark there.

Read more: German migrant rescue ship heads for Lampedusa

Algeciras declined

"I have given instructions to prepare the port of Algeciras to welcome Open Arms. Spain always acts in the face of humanitarian emergencies," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez had tweeted a day before. 

Sanchez' offer was declined by the ship on the basis of an emergency situation on board.

"We do not accept Spain as a port to go because we are in a state of extreme humanitarian emergency. What they need is to be disembarked now," an Open Arms spokeswoman said.

The boat had spent 2 1/2 weeks in limbo waiting for a port at which it can dock.

The Open Arms off Lampedusa with an Italian coast guard boat in the foreground

The Open Arms has been in limbo for more than two weeks

Read more: German rescue ship heads to Malta after Italy blocks Lampedusa port

Act of desperation

The founder of the charity vessel, Oscar Camps, tweeted a video of four migrants jumping off the ship in orange life vests in an attempt to swim to Lampedusa. 

Several crew members of the ship swam after them and brought them back into the vessel.  

"We have been warning for days; desperation has its limits," said Camps. 

Read more: Migrants force entry into Spain's Melilla exclave

 'Inconceivable decision' by Italy

Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had ordered his officials not to let the migrants dock.

He did make a partial concession on Saturday by allowing 27 minors to leave the vessel but refused to take the rest.

Several migrant minors sitting on an official Italian boat before disembarking

Some minors were allowed to disembark on Saturday

The Spanish government spoke of what it called Italy's "inconceivable decision" to close all its ports to migrants.

Sanchez said that "it is necessary to establish a European, orderly and caring solution, tackling the migration challenge with the values of progress and humanism."

Earlier this week, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania also offered to take in some of the migrants following their disembarkation. 

The French Interior Ministry confirmed on Sunday that France was prepared to take in 40 of the Open Arms migrants if they met the criteria to be treated as refugees.

mvb/ng (AFP, dpa, EFE, Reuters)

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