Photo of a Proactiva Open Arms rescue operation | Copyright : Reuters / Yannis Behrakis
Photo of a Proactiva Open Arms rescue operation | Copyright : Reuters / Yannis Behrakis

The Spanish non-governmental organization Proactiva Open Arms set out to a new search-and-rescue operation in the Mediterranean this weekend. The crew is headed toward the sea stretch between Libya and Italy.

In recent months, most private rescue operations in the central Mediterranean were halted after Italy’s Interior Minister banished private rescue vessels from Italian ports. 

SOS Mediteranee had run the last migrant rescue mission until Panama said it would revoke its registration of their vessel Aquarius 2 following a request from Italy's populist government. The Aquarius will no longer be able to set sail due to the deflagging.

Obligation to save lives

In light of the situation, Proactiva Open Arms announced on Twitter on Saturday: "The time has come: Astral returns to the central Mediterranean," referring to one of its two ships. 

"Saving human lives in danger is an obligation, not a choice," the NGO added.

The ship left Barcelona on Friday with a stopover in the port of Motril in southern Spain, which will be the base for the duration of the new mission. The Astral is headed to the SAR  zone off the Libyan coast. 

Oscar Camps, founder of Proactiva Open Arms, said on Twitter: "After two and a half years, the Astral is setting sail again. Eight deaths per day force us to be here. We would prefer not to be alone."

Future policy unclear

So far, there is no common EU agreement on how to distribute migrants rescued by private organizations. The most recent cases have shown that the distribution was negotiated case by case. Permission to dock was only granted after EU member states announced their commitment to take migrants in. 

During the months of June and July, migrant rescue ships run by Doctors without Borders and the German organization Mission Lifeline underwent weeklong standoffs with the Italian government and had to undertake odysseys on the Mediterranean before being given the permission to dock.

The Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms had halted its operations in August after disembarking 87 migrants from sub-Sahara Africa rescued off the coast of Libya in the port of Algeciras.


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