Government launches 'safe' ports plan for refugees and rescue boats
Minister condemns "inaction" of EU members as Spain continues blockading NGO ship Open Arms three months on
The Catalan government has launched an initiative bringing together several departments in order to make its ports "safe" for refugees and NGO rescue boats.
Speaking as the scheme started on Monday with the first meeting of the working group, the foreign minister reminded reporters that Catalonia does not have the power to grant migrants asylum, but does have control over reception and integration policy.
Alfred Bosch said the plan was a response to the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean and recognition of the "moral and political obligation" to welcome migrants, particularly in the face of what he denounced as the "inaction" of EU member states.
He also discussed their work on the refugee rescue boats.
"We mustn't forget that states are at the moment preventing any ship from rescuing in the Mediterranean," he said.
NGO rescue boat denied new mission permission
At the start of this year, the Spanish government refused permission for Open Arms, a vessel owned by Catalan NGO Pro Activa Open Arms, to set sail from Barcelona – and more than three months later, the boat is still stuck without being allowed to begin a new search and rescue mission in Libyan waters.
The NGO has lodged an official complaint, but in the meantime, the vessel is only allowed to operate in Spanish waters.
Barcelona's port authority, which comes under Spain's ministry of development, argued in January that permission to leave was denied because the vessel is not certified to carry a large number of people on board.
Tourism opportunities at Palamós
Meanwhile, Junts per Catalunya's top candidate in Girona has criticized the need for the Port of Palamós to restrict its operations to within the Schengen area as a reason "why Catalonia needs to be independent".
Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas argued that unlocking the port to tourists entering and exiting the EU would be a boost for both Girona and the surrounding region, which received a total of 46 cruise stopovers in 2018.
The center-right candidate criticized successive Spanish governments for making "deceitful and incomplete promises" concerning the future of the facility.