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Catalan refugee rescue NGO to join forces with Spanish government

Proactiva Open Arms has helped 27,000 stranded migrants in Mediterranean Sea since 2016

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30 August 2018 12:33 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

The Catalan refugee rescue NGO Proactiva Open Arms will support the Spanish government with maritime rescue tasks along the coasts of the Strait of Gibraltar and the Alboran Sea.

Open Arms will "provide human resources and materials aiming to avoid as much as possible the loss of lives at sea in the old route of Southern Spain," as the NGO itself said in a statement.

This cooperation will be executed in the coming weeks after dealing with some legal and logistical issues. The Spanish Infrastructures ministry said that this is part of their migrant policy, "based on the defense of Human Rights and maintaining the security at the borders."

What is Proactiva Open Arms?

Proactiva Open Arms has been operating in the Mediterranean Sea since 2016 in order to rescue stranded refugees. According to the NGO, they have already "saved 27,000 lives in barely two years."

While at sea and with migrants on their boat they have faced the opposition of Italian and Maltese authorities to dock in their ports several times. One of the times the boat ended up docking in Barcelona with some 60 migrants on board.

On one of the occasions, while waiting in international waters for permission to disembark, a Libyan coastguard patrol sent a warning to the NGO boat by shooting into the air and threatening them.

The Libyan coastguard accused the NGO of “conducting suspicious activities” and also of “dealing with smugglers” as video footage shared by Proactiva Open Arms shows. “Next time you will be targeted,” the patrol added.

NGOs such as Open Arms have been at the center of the debate as part of the anti-migrant movement has accused them of helping mafias transport refugees from Africa and the Near East to Europe.

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  • A Picture and its Story: Spanish rescue boat finds life and death off Libya coast ( REUTERS/Juan Medina)

  • A Picture and its Story: Spanish rescue boat finds life and death off Libya coast ( REUTERS/Juan Medina)