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Rescue ship saves over 150 lives despite Spain's efforts to thwart them

A REFUGEE rescue charity delivered over 150 people to dry land today, completing its first mission since the Spanish government began frustrating its efforts in November.

The Aita Mari, operated by the Basque charity Humanitarian Maritime Rescue Association (SMH), returned to sea on January 30, rescuing a total of 158 people in the central Mediterranean in three separate missions last weekend.

Today, the Aita Mari crew finally disembarked the rescued refugees in Messina, Italy, after the city had given them permission to come ashore early last week.

Daniel Rivas, an SMH activist, spoke to the Star today praising the work of his comrades and of the other NGO refugee rescue organisations and activists who helped and supported the Aita Mari.  

“It’s amazing,” Mr Rivas said.

“There is an amazing network of civil society groups and activists all helping each other take care of the refugees trying to make it to Europe.

“It’s a wonderful response to the European Union’s refugee policies. Since 2015, people from Greece to Spain have been working together in this crisis.

“The EU is sending money to undemocratic regimes in Africa and across the world to try to stop refugees from escaping their countries and reaching safety in Europe instead of dealing with the root causes.

“Since 2016 the numbers of migrants trying to reach Europe are actually quite low. But every year, the EU increases [the European Border and Coast Guard Agency] Frontex’s budget.”

Returning to Spain after a rescue mission last November, the Spanish authorities effectively blocked the ship from sailing by delaying their documents and placing demands on the ship the charity was not legally required to fulfil.

“We cannot go back to Spain.” Mr Rivas said. “There is a chance that if we enter Spanish waters, they will try to delay us again.”

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