Open Arms rescue vessel arriving in the port of Algeciras in southern Spain, with 87 migrants aboard who were rescued off the coast of Libya. Reports said this is the fourth time an NGO vessel has arrived in Spain with migrants aboard after being rejected by Italy. EPA/A.Carrasco Ragel
Open Arms rescue vessel arriving in the port of Algeciras in southern Spain, with 87 migrants aboard who were rescued off the coast of Libya. Reports said this is the fourth time an NGO vessel has arrived in Spain with migrants aboard after being rejected by Italy. EPA/A.Carrasco Ragel

The search and rescue vessel of the Spanish NGO Open Arms has arrived in the Spanish port of Algeciras, in Andalusia, with 87 African migrants aboard who were rescued last week in the Mediterranean. The Spanish government has made it known that the migrants will only receive a 72-hour permit and no special status, but France has said it will accept about 20 of the migrants.

The search and rescue ship of the Spanish NGO Open Arms has arrived in the port of Algeciras, in Andalusia, with 87 African migrants aboard who were rescued last week in the Mediterranean. 


The migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya and they will not have a special stay permit or special status. This is in contrast to the 629 migrants who were aboard the ship Aquarius and were granted a special stay permit. 

The 87 migrants rescued by Open Arms will have a 72-hour permit to allow them to request asylum, according to some Spanish media sources. They reported this is a change in direction by the Sanchez government regarding the reception of migrants rescued by NGOs, a change that has come after only a few weeks. 

However, France has said it will accept "around 20" of the migrants. 

No special status for migrants 

Migrants aboard the Aquarius, which landed in Valencia on June 17, were granted a 45-day stay permit for humanitarian reasons. The government is defending its change in stance by saying that the Open Arms' landing in Algeciras (which is the third migrant rescue ship arrival in recent weeks, following Barcelona and Majorca), is not an exceptional landing of migrants. Therefore, the normal procedures apply to the migrants aboard. 

Government sources said the migrants rescued by Open Arms will be identified and given medical exams, respecting their fundamental rights in the same way as any other migrant arriving on Spanish shores. However, no special status will be granted. 

Aquarius was humanitarian emergency, Open Arms is not 

Spanish Migration Minister Consuelo Rumi told Spanish daily El Pais that the difference between the case of the Aquarius and that of the Open Arms is that the Aquarius "was a humanitarian emergency in which lives were at risk and it was necessary to react rapidly". He said the current situation is different. "We are putting into place a reception protocol that didn't exist before," he said. 

The humanitarian organisations are not in agreement with his assessment. "We need a protocol that is uniform, clear, and not arbitrary," Estrella Galan, the director general of the aid group Spanish Commission for Refugees.
 

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