Catalan president and Barcelona mayor reaffirm offer to take in refugees
Torra says Catalonia can shelter “at least 1,800” stranded migrants, with Spain warning about becoming “Europe’s rescue organization”
The Barcelona and Catalonia authorities have repeated their offer to welcome stranded refugees. The heads of both executives restated their willingness to take in migrants on Sunday, with the Catalan NGO ProActiva Open Arms reporting news of another seven boats stranded in the Mediterranean with around 1,000 refugees on board.
Catalan president Quim Torra said the country “is ready to take in at least 1,800” refugees. “We open our doors to face this humanitarian drama, and we ask Europe not to look away,” he added on social media. Meanwhile, Barcelona mayor Ada Colau offered Barcelona as a “safe harbor” for the stranded ships.
"We open our doors to face this humanitarian drama, and we ask Europe not to look away"
Quim Torra · Catalan president
However, the Spanish infrastructure minister, José Luis Ábalos, responded to Colau on Monday, warning that Spain cannot become “Europe’s maritime rescue organization.” The minister said that Spain “cannot take on this responsibility alone” as these situations will be “very often” repeated in the near future.
Earlier this month, the new Spanish executive decided to accept the stranded ship ‘Aquarius,’ with 629 refugees, after Italy had turned it away. Yet in a radio interview, Ábalos justified that move as a “humanitarian urgency.” Barcelona and Catalonia offered to take them in, but Pedro Sánchez's cabinet in the end decided to offer the port of Valencia.
The minister also stressed that it is a matter for the whole of the EU to sort out. On Thursday and Friday, a European summit of the leaders of all EU member states but the UK will tackle the issue. Sixteen of those leaders met in a preliminary summit on Sunday, but without reaching any agreement.
On Sunday, the Catalan NGO Open Arms reported that there were seven ships with around 1,000 refugees overall stranded in the Mediterranean and, what’s more, without life jackets. According to the organization, the Italian coastguard rejected the NGO’s offer to help rescue the migrants. “We don’t need your help,” was how the Italian authorities responded to the offer, according to the NGO’s head, Òscar Camps. This, despite an Open Arms ship being only 65 miles away from the stranded boats. Mayor Colau said that “Italy intends to leave them in the hands of Libya, where people are tortured, raped and enslaved.”