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Italy's new anti-migrant law leaves Spanish migrant rescue ship in limbo

The Open Arms ship has been at sea for six days with 121 migrants on board and with nowhere to go

THE Italian government’s decision to impose fines of up to €1 million (£923,000) on any migrant rescue NGO that brings non-Europeans rescued from the Mediterranean Sea into its waters is already having a chilling effect on the civil fleet. 

A Spanish migrant rescue ship, currently in international waters between Malta and the Italian island of Lampedusa with 121 shipwrecked migrants on board, is stuck in limbo after it was denied permission to enter port by both nations. 

On August 1 and 2, the Open Arms charity’s ship rescued 123 migrants, 32 of whom are children, including nine-month-old twins, from two overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean. 

On August 3, Open Arms founder Oscar Camps confirmed that two pregnant women, “one of nine months and another of eight-and-a-half,” had been airlifted to safety by the Italian coastguard. 

On Monday, the Italian Senate voted 160 to 57 to pass far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s security Bill into law.

The harsh new legislation means that the Italian authorities can now lock up migrant rescue ship captains, confiscate their vessels and fine their organisation between €150,000 (£138,000) and €1m. 

The Open Arms ship’s captain Anabel Montes has warned that its supplies are beginning to run low. 

“Little by little, we are running out of food and drink for the rescued people,” she said. 

“We are worried about the psychological state of the people we have rescued, as it is worsening day by day because of the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen to them.

“We urgently need a port as quickly as possible for the safety of everyone on board.”

Riccardo Gatti, president of Open Arms in Italy, said the charity has presented an appeal to the juvenile prosecutor’s office in Palermo “so that the minors on board are made to disembark and guardians are appointed for unaccompanied ones. This includes articles six and 11 of the Hague Convention.”

Doctors Without Borders asked today: “Where is the optimism and solidarity expressed only weeks ago that European states were on the brink of ending this unnecessary suffering at sea?”

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