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Open Arms to warn migrants of route to Europe’s dangers

Catalan NGO rescuing refugees in the Mediterranean prepares new project in sub-Saharan countries

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17 April 2018 12:40 PM

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ACN | Badalona

Proactiva Open Arms is extending its bid to save the lives of refugees crossing the Mediterranean further south than its usual stomping ground. The Catalan NGO will travel to sub-Saharan countries to warn people of the dangers that traveling to Europe entails, in order to increase their awareness before they start the trip.

In a press conference on Tuesday, the NGO founder Òscar Camps explained that they will use the testimony of immigrants who would not undertake the journey again. The hazards they face include torture, extortion by migration mafias, as well as death in the desert.

The announcement came a day after a court in Italy decided to release the NGO’s ship, which had been blocked in Pozzallo, Sicily, following accusations of fostering illegal immigration and criminal association.

A prosecutor in Ragusa opened an investigation against crew members and ordered the ship to be docked a month ago, after a rescue operation in which 216 refugees were saved from drowning. The NGO was accused of failing to comply with orders from Libyan coastguards who wanted to return them to African soil.

  • "They should know that Europe will not welcome them"

    Òscar Camps · Proactiva Open Arms

Spain’s foreign affairs minister Alfonso Dastis said on Monday that he was satisfied with the court’s decision. “We always defended that the NGO’s work was lawful according to international law,” he said.

Open Arms has rescued more than 26,500 people from drowning in the sea since starting its mission in the central Mediterranean in 2016, according to figures facilitated by the NGO.

The NGO resumed its rescue mission on Monday with a new ship. According to Camps, the ship docked in Italy for a month will need fixing before being able to sail safely again.

Having two ships at their disposal, Open Arms will be able to incorporate the sea rescue operation with the trips to sub-Saharan countries. The first country they will visit is Ghana.

Camps stressed the importance of letting Africans know that a trip to Europe costs around €8,000 if they seek the help of smugglers. “It’s cheaper to attend university in their countries than traveling to Europe,” Camps said.

Moreover, he said that they should know that “Europe will not welcome them” and “will let them die” in the desert and in the sea.

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  • Proactiva Open Arms founder Òscar Camps (by Aleix Freixas)

  • Proactiva Open Arms founder Òscar Camps (by Aleix Freixas)