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Open Arms says new voyage to Spain impossible as Italy continues to refuse docking permission

CREW on the Open Arms rescue ship said today they were unable to accept an offer of a port in Spain because conditions on the boat are too desperate for a six-day voyage.

The vessel is moored 300 yards from the Italian island of Lampedusa but has been unable to disembark its 107 remaining refugees because Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is denying it docking permission in a standoff that is rocking Italian politics.

Forty people have been taken ashore from the Open Arms on humanitarian grounds because they were ill or minors, but the crew say those remaining are getting desperate. Four jumped overboard and attempted to swim to shore at the weekend, being brought back by crew members who dived in after them. Open Arms founder Oscar Camps tweeted: “We have been warning for days — desperation has its limits.”

Spain’s government offered yesterday to allow the Open Arms to disembark its passengers at Algeciras, seeking to end the crisis after crew described conditions on the ship as “miserable” 17 days after the refugees were rescued off the Libyan coast. 

But spokeswoman for the group Laura Lanuza said the situation on the boat was now “absolutely unsustainable.

“There is anxiety, bouts of violence, control is becoming increasingly difficult. To embark on a six-day sail with these people on board would be crazy.”

Mr Salvini retorted that the Open Arms was refusing to budge “just to provoke me and Italy.” His draconian approach to the refugee crisis has included getting a Bill through parliament that would slap fines of up to €1 million (£915,000) on every vessel that docks in an Italian port without permission, while rescuers are being charged with human trafficking and threatened with decades in jail.

His League party has called for a vote of no confidence in the government in which it is junior coalition partner, believing it could triumph at snap elections. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte accused Mr Salvini of an “obsession” with stopping immigration on Friday and said he was undermining and misrepresenting the government. Senior coalition partner the Five Star Movement is in talks with the opposition Democrats, hoping to cobble together a new coalition to avoid elections the League is expected to win.

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