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Spanish military boat accompanies Open Arms to Lampedusa
By thinkSPAIN Team Wed, Aug 21, 2019
A SPANISH Armed Forces boat is accompanying the migrant rescue craft Open Arms to the Italian island of Lampedusa where the 90 refugees who remain on board are due to disembark.
Defence minister Margarita Robles has expressed her 'satisfaction' for the Italian prosecution's decision to allow the Open Arms to dock and the migrants to get off the boat 'for health and safety reasons'.
The Audaz (pictured), a military craft based in Cádiz, was due to take the migrants to Palma de Mallorca before the Italian government backed down, but will now stay close to the Open Arms to provide assistance and, if things move quickly enough, to take Spain's agreed quota of the refugees.
Six European Union countries have reached an agreement to take in a set portion of the wearied, distressed passengers – Spain, France, Germany, Portugal, Luxembourg and Romania – and Sra Robles says the Spanish government will follow through with its promise.
But she says Italy should lead the process, since it was the nearest safe country to where the migrants, fleeing Libya, were found drowning in the Mediterranean before they were saved by the Open Arms.
Europe's far right, including Vox in Spain and Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini, consider Open Arms to be a 'criminal organisation' involved with 'aiding illegal immigration', but the charity, based in Catalunya, has said it will continue to save lives in the Mediterranean and refuses to allow the EU's inaction to be responsible for migrants being left to die.
Robles – who is currently in Gran Canaria to oversee the progress of the forest fire that has led to 9,000 residents and visitors being evacuated - slammed Salvini's initial refusal to allow the Open Arms to dock, saying his prohibition on migrant arrivals is a 'breach of basic humanitarian ethics'.
“It's a human drama,” said Robles, who admitted that the Armed Forces had opted to send out the Audaz 'purely for humane reasons' and that, whatever happened with the Italian authorities, Spain 'was not going to turn a blind eye' to the plight of the refugees on board.
The Audaz set off from the military base in Rota (Cádiz province) at 18.30 last night (Tuesday)· almost at the same moment that the Italian authorities gave permission for the Open Arms to dock in Lampedusa.
Its captain, Emilio Damiá Marqués, says this is the Audaz's 'first real mission', since it was only built and delivered to the Armed Forces in July last year.
“All I know right now is that I need to sail to Lampedusa and that, once there, I'll receive more specific instructions,” Marqués says.
“Our next move will depend upon how it all pans out and what the Spanish government decides.”
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