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Catalan parties call for 'immediate' release of migrant rescue ship

Spain prevents Open Arms vessel from leaving Barcelona's port as city awards NGO with Gold Medal

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22 January 2019 05:31 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

A number of Catalan political parties have called on the Spanish authorities to "immediately release" the Open Arms vessel of the Proactiva Open Arms NGO, which has not been allowed to leave Barcelona's port for over a week.

MPs from the JxCat, ERC, CatECP and CUP parties, along with speaker Roger Torrent, unfurled banners in Parliament on Tuesday in support of the NGO, pointing out that the activity of search and rescue carried out by the NGO "is not a crime."

ERC member, Ruben Wagensberg, regretted that in the time the Open Arms vessel has not been allowed to set sail, more than 170 people have died at sea. "The time the vessel spends in Barcelona's port is not counted in days but in deaths," he said.

  • "The time the vessel spends in Barcelona's port is not counted in days but in deaths"

    Ruben Wagensberg · ERC MP

Meanwhile, spokeswoman for CatECP, Susana Segovia, urged Spanish president Pedro Sánchez to be "brave" and "resolute": "Saving lives is not a crime and we do not understand why the vessel continues to be blocked. We demand it be released immediately," she added.

The authorities refused Open Arms permission to leave Barcelona's port earlier in the month, citing problems with its certification. The ship was about to embark on a new search and rescue mission near Libya, but currently is only allowed to operate in Spanish waters.

Since 2017, Proactiva Open Arms has rescued hundreds of people stranded at sea, but has also become a controversial player in the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean. It has also received recognition for its work, such as the EU's European Citizen's Prize in 2016.

Barcelona awards NGO Gold Medal

In fact, the organization received an award from Barcelona city council just this week in the form of its Gold Medal for Civic Merit, which was presented to the NGO's foundation, Fundació PROA, for its defense of human rights and humanitarian rescue work.

The NGO's founder, Òscar Camps, received the award, and proposed that Barcelona should head an "alliance of cities" for "social change," as well as calling on president Sánchez to provide "coherent policies."

At the event, Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, criticized the "incomprehensible" blocking of the Open Arms vessel and denounced the "criminalization" of the NGO, which she said reveals the "inaction" of EU member states in dealing with the migrant crisis.

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  • Catalan NGO Proactiva Open Arms awarded Barcelona's Gold Medal (by Nazaret Romero)

  • Catalan NGO Proactiva Open Arms awarded Barcelona's Gold Medal (by Nazaret Romero)