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Catalan government offers safe harbor to rescue ship rejected by Spain

Aquarius stranded again after saving 141 people from drowning in the Mediterranean

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14 August 2018 01:39 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

The Catalan president Quim Torra has offered a safe harbor to the Aquarius, a rescue ship stranded in the Mediterranean with 141 migrants on board, after the Spanish government avoided accepting the boat.

In a U-turn from a similar situation last June, when Spain’s president Pedro Sánchez welcomed the Aquarius in Valencia after the ship saved 630 people from drowning, his executive now alleges that Spain is not the closest country to offer a safe port—a condition that was not met last June either.

“I’ve asked Catalan ports to welcome the Aquarius ship in Palamós, Vilanova or Sant Carles de la Ràpita, all of which are ports managed by the Catalan government, in order to disembark the people with all the guarantees needed,” said Torra via Twitter. “Catalonia will always be a welcoming land.”

Although the Catalan government is in charge of some minor ports—the largest ones, in Barcelona and Tarragona, are managed by Spain—, Torra’s decision is set to trigger a political clash between his executive and Sánchez’s, as Spain has the last say on whether a ship can enter its waters.

The Spanish government said on Tuesday afternoon that "intense negotiations" were underway at the European level, and that a solution for the Aquarius and the migrants on board of the ship was expected in the "coming hours."

Italy and Malta have also rejected offering a safe harbor to the Aquarius, which drastically reduces the list of countries where the ship could dock.

The Aquarius is run by French charities SOS Mediterranée and Médecines Sans Frontières (MSF).

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  • Migrants saved by the Aquarius crew (by Guglielmo Mangiapane/MSF)

  • Migrants saved by the Aquarius crew (by Guglielmo Mangiapane/MSF)