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Open Arms says conditions on board too dire to disembark migrants ‘1,000 miles away’

Founder Oscar Camps turns down Spanish government's offer to sail the migrants to the Balearic islands

THE Spanish government said today that a charity refugee-rescue ship with more than 100 shipwrecked people aboard currently moored off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa could dock in the Balearic islands.

The Open Arms, operated by the Spanish charity of the same name, has been forced to remain at sea without a safe port to disembark the refugees that it rescued 19 days ago from off the Libyan coast.

On Sunday, Spain said the ship could bring the migrants to the southern port of Algeciras but the charity said it was “absolutely unrealistic” to travel that far because of the “humanitarian emergency” on board.

Open Arms shared a video on Twitter later that day showing four refugees attempting to swim to Lampedusa and the distressing scenes on board afterwards as heated arguments broke out between the migrants and the crew, while others broke down in tears.

Open Arms founder Oscar Camps dismissed Spain’s new offer yesterday afternoon saying that the situation on board was “worse than yesterday, better than tomorrow.”

“We have repeated several times that we can wait no longer,” Mr Camps told the Spanish newspaper El Diario today.

“And [Spain] asks us to transport [the refugees] 500 or 1,000 miles more. What part have they not understood?

“Any movement [from Lampedusa] will mean a revolt.

“We have 17 people on board: nine ensure that the ship works, the other eight have to stop fights, attend to panic attacks, assist those who require care for injuries, prepare food and keep life on hold.

"We ask the government to protect the rights of Spanish citizens who are responsible for the lives of 137 people on a Spanish-flag vessel.”

Meanwhile the Ocean Viking, operated jointly by Medecins Sans Frontieres and SOS Mediterranee, remains at sea without a safe port, having been turned down by Malta, with 356 rescued refugees on board.

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