A 14-year-old Somali boy who was beaten in Libya, was evacuated from the civil search and rescue vessel belonging to the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms a day after a woman and her newborn son were airlifted to Malta. Laura Lanuza the spokesperson from the organisation was interviewed by Newsbook.com.mt about their recent mission during which over 300 people were rescued in three separate operations.
Lanuza told this newsroom that the Somali teenager was beaten the day before embarking on the perilous journey, he then got a skin infection which was so bad that he had to be evacuated for medical reasons to Lampedusa. Asking about the woman and her son who were airlifted to Malta, Lanuza said that the only details available were that she was from Burkina Faso. The latest information from the Maltese authorities was that both were stable however details were sparse on the case.
‘Malta refused to give us supplies; warned against coming too close to the island’
Laura told Newsbook.com.mt that the Maltese authorities cited unfavorable weather conditions when the NGO sought to obtain supplies for the boat following the rescue operations. However she described their reply as an “excuse” saying that being out at sea themselves they knew that this was not true. Further the Maltese authorities warned them from getting to close to Malta, as later Malta refused to grant them a port of safety where they could disembark the asylum seekers that were rescued from drowning.
As for port of safety, Open Arms asked various European Member States in the Mediterranean where it could enter and disembark the asylum seekers. Both Italy and Malta refused to grant a port of safety. However Spain authorized the ship to enter its port. Open Arms is expected to arrive in Spain on Friday 28 December.
Christmas on Open Arms
Laura described how Santa hats were given to all the children on board the ship. Among the 300 people on board 139 are minors under the age of 18. She explained that a traditional activity from Barcelona was prepared by the volunteers for the children and said that both children and adults enjoyed themselves as they sang songs and listened to music. Laura reiterated that the people were happy because they felt safe for the first time in a long time. She described the journey as a difficult one, saying that while it was cold at night, people still had to sleep on the deck and share two bathrooms among themselves.
Another surprise for those on board Open Arms was the arrival of Astral with supplies which included food, medicines and blankets to Open Arms on Tuesday.
‘Illegal politics against the international conventions signed’
Over Summer 2018 there were various instances were Malta and Italy disputed over which country should shoulder responsibility and grant a port of safety for the asylum seekers rescued. When asked about the situation Lanuza described the politics employed as “illegal against international conventions” to which the various member states are party, mentioning the SOLAS Convention, the Geneva Convention among other treaties.
Lanuza stated that Libya was a failed state still at war but the political approach being taken was to provide financial support and training to the Libyan Coast Guard which she described as legitimizing the militias. She argued that when the NGO boats leave the search and rescue zone no more information is made available saying that no one is documenting what is happening. Given that no monitoring and documentation is taking place once they leave then it was like they did not exist at all.
The civil search and rescue NGO, Open Arms is based in Badalona, Barcelona, and its main mission is to rescue people fleeing from war, persecution or poverty and trying to reach Europe.