Support for ‘Open Arms’ to get back to saving lives in the Mediterranean

The ship belonging to the organisation Proactiva Open Arms has now been moored in the port in Barcelona for three days, after the Spanish government blocked it from setting out on a rescue mission in the Mediterranean. The City Council has reaffirmed its commitment to the humanitarian work of the NGO, with a new collaboration agreement worth nearly half a million euros.

17/01/2019 18:19 h

Ajuntament de Barcelona

The agreement denounces the violation of human rights occurring in the Mediterranean Sea and provides support for the work done by the Fundació Proactiva Open Arms to protect migrants at risk of being shipwrecked and dying in the search and rescue (SAR) zones in the central Mediterranean, a humanitarian emergency.

The agreement, which renews the deal from a year ago, runs until 2020 and is worth 497,020 euros, helping fund 35.4% of the operation by the NGO. The funding reaffirms Barcelona as a refuge city and follows a period since the summer when the NGO has had no presence in the central Mediterranean due to the ports in Italy and Malta closing and the criminalisation and restriction of humanitarian rescue organisations.

Barcelona City Council and Proactiva Open Arms both agree that the crisis and the deactivation of humanitarian missions off the coast of Libya require an emergency response, backed by as many public institutions as possible, particularly European cities, as is the case with the agreement between the City Council and the NGO.

Restriction on Open Arms in the port in Barcelona

The boat Open Arms was due to set off from the port in Barcelona three days ago to head for the SAR zone off the Libyan coast and carry on with its humanitarian surveillance and rescue work. However, the Maritime Authority, which is the responsibility of Spain’s Ministry of Public Works, denied the ship permission to leave as it was supposedly in breach of maritime regulations.

The boat has been banned from leaving until it can demonstrate an agreement exists with the authorities in the SAR zone in the Mediterranean to take on board people saved at sea, something which is highly unlikely given that the ports in Italy and Malta are no longer open.

Letter to Minister Ábalos

The Mayor, Ada Colau, has written to the Minister of Public Works, José Luis Ábalos, to demand that the Open Arms be allowed to sail. In the letter, Colau expresses her concern at how the administrative arguments of the Spanish government are leaving migrants unprotected as they embark on highly dangerous journeys in the Mediterranean, fleeing terror.

The letter also urges the ministry to take the necessary measures to resolve the administrative obstacles blocking the boat from leaving the port as soon as possible.

A project which saves lives

The project by Proactiva Open Arms ‘Protection through presence, humanitarian rescue and emergency communication in the Mediterranean’ is organised into three areas:

  • Protection through presence. Being in the SAR zone and being visible is a dissuasive element in terms of potential human rights violations and a guarantee of protection for people found there.
  • Protection through action. Rescuing people at risk of dying in SAR waters and guaranteeing their safety by taking them on board.
  • Emergency communication. Giving visibility to the current situation and denouncing the lack of protection for the rights of migrants in transit in the Mediterranean and at borders.


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