February 18, 2019
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European Union

Italian, Spanish mayors: blocking rescue missions in Mediterranean is a crime

Rome, Feb 9 (efe-epa).- The mayors of various Italian and Spanish cities on Saturday released a joint statement of support to European migrant rescue boats active in the Mediterranean Sea, which were facing increasing obstacles in their work as several nations have refused to let them disembark.

The mayors of Barcelona, Madrid and Zaragoza in Spain and Bologna, Latina, Naples, Palermo and Syracuse in Italy took aim at the European Union for what they said was the bloc's inaction regarding some country's refusal to let NGO migrant rescue boats dock, meaning several vessels have on occasion been left adrift for weeks with dozens of people on board.

They specifically highlighted vessels such as Open Arms, Aira Mari and Sea Watch 3, which have all been at the center of bureaucratic blockades attempted to bring their operations to a standstill, which the mayors said had risked lives.

"We believe that Europe drowns when it contravenes the law of sea rescue by reducing the resources of its coastguards and when it accuses those who rescue lives of human trafficking when they are fulfilling the duties governments should be engaged in," the Mediterranean mayors warned in reference to an article within the United Nations Convention on the law of the sea.

"(Europe) drowns when its governments, wrapped in their flags and alleged practical outlooks, avoid helping each other to face the migratory flows, which are a result of regional conflicts," the statement added in reference to the distribution of migrants.

The statement continued by condemning the sale of weapons by EU states which continue to feed wars in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, without then assuming any responsibility at all. Instead of opting for the creation of walls in order to create areas devoid of information and humanitarian aid, the mayors added.

In reference to the deals the Italian government has brokered with Libya to curb the flow of migrants, the statement decried the use of foreign governments beyond the EU and armies in order to do the "dirty work."

"We must rescue Europe of itself. We do not doubt that the European response when faced with this horror, has amounted to the deprivation of human rights and inaction over the right to live. To save lives is non-negotiable, and to unauthorize the rescue missions of boats and to deny them a safe harbor, a crime," the statement said.

According to the UN, some 5,685 people have arrived in Europe via sea routes so far this year. The majority of those came to Spain (4,254), followed by Greece (2,233) and Italy (155).

Many thousands of migrants attempt to make the perilous crossing from North Africa to Europe every year in a bid to find a better life.

Italy recently waded into a diplomatic row with the rest of the EU when it blocked entry to several migrant boats and forced them to sit offshore until other member states offered to take on some of the migrants on board.

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