SPAIN’S Ministry of Development has threatened a Spanish NGO with fines of ‘€901,000’ if it rescues migrants from the Mediterranean.
A letter hit the captain of the Open Arms rescue ship with orders to desist from ‘search and rescue operations’.
The letter threatened fines of ‘€300,000’ or ‘€901,000’, or face an order back to a Spanish port where the boat would be ‘paralysed’.
The highest representative of the Merchant Marine, Benito Nunez Quintanilla, signed the ‘unprecedented’ warning to Oscar Camps, according to El Diario.
Spain began denying departure permits for humanitarian ships in January this year.
But the Open Arms vessel, which flies the Spanish flag, has now felt the first effects of defying central government orders.
The letter required the ship to obtain permits from the corresponding authorities, that is, Italy or Malta, in the Mediterranean area where operations would take place.
However, these countries have closed their ports to rescued migrants.
The Spanish Committee for Help to Refugees said in a tweet: “It’s unacceptable that the Spanish government threatens [huge] sanctions on NGOs that try to save lives, as is the case with Open Arms, instead of facilitating this work and respect of human rights.”
According to the Missing Migrants Project, which tracks the number of migrants and asylum seekers lost along migration routes, at least 681 people have already died in the Mediterranean during 2019.
Meanwhile in Italy, Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini has closed ports and introduced laws that would impose fines of up to €50,000 – much less than those threatened by Spanish authorities.
Pedro Sanchez initially embraced an open arms policy when he allowed 629 migrants aboard the Aquarius ship to dock in Valencia, after they were turned away from Italian ports in June last year.
Spain however has since become the leading migrant route into Europe, seeing figures double to 57,000 entering the country last year.