/Political rest dies in the sea as rescuers are called into question

Political rest dies in the sea as rescuers are called into question

Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms has been rescuing thousands of migrants in the last years, in an attempt to protect their lives. However, some Spanish and Italian politicians do not trust in this organization’s integrity

Jon Larrachea

The Mediterranean sea is does not just separate two continents, it separates two worlds. From Africa, migrants look at the Mare Nostrum as the last hurdle, a huge snare they are supposed to slip away in order to get to Europe, a land of opportunities to make up a whole new life. 

Nevertheless, two new actors started playing a role in this story. These actors are the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms and the Maltese, Spanish and Italian Southern European governments, latter ones with European Union green light.

The conflict’s last chapter, a conflict that began more than a year and half ago, took place last August. During three weeks, more than 100 migrants waited in the boat to a country to give all of them a truly solution. In 20th August, an Italian prosecutor ordered the seizure of the boat and the disembarkation of the Open Arms. 

That incident confirmed the lack of understanding and common migration policies in the European Union. This is also one of the outcomes that Mrs. Joanne Van der Leun, professor in the University of Leiden and expertise in migration, worms from this conflict. 

Van der Leun also highlights the paradox of immigration the European Union is stuck on: “people who want to enter in Europe are victims, and they are considered like that. Otherwise, current policies the European Union treat refugees as criminals. With this tough policies, Europe is difficulting the entry of refugees, pushing themselves to accept mafia’s offers”.

Gods or mercenaries?

The activity of this NGO has been put in doubt in several times by rightish Spanish and Italian parties. Former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has always been really skeptical towards the good will of Proactiva Open Arms. Salvini has always showed himself against the reception of this immigrants, claiming that;

“Italian ports were and would be closed for human traffickers and their international accomplices”. In addition to the converse attitude towards immigrants welcome, Salvini established fines that reached 50.000, if the Open Arms boat reached Italian waters. 

In the same path, Spanish ultra-right wing VOX party’s leader, Santiago Abascal connected Proactiva Open Arms activity to human trafficking: “NGOs that traffic with mafias are blackmailing Europe”. 

This charges from Italian and Spanish ultra right wing parties are linked to a common theory. In their opinion, as mafias know that migrants they traffic with will be rescued, they launch them in less quality and more populated ships, in order to make costs cheaper for the own mafias.

These parties also argue that as migrants know they have more chances to be rescued, more people is interested in getting through the Mediterranean Sea. Anyway, this theory has been squashed by an Oxford University research, which main outcome is that more migrants arrive to European coast or get drowned when there are less rescue operations.