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Migrants at an abandoned school in Barcelona, Spain Migrants at an abandoned school in Barcelona, Spain  (AFP or licensors)

MSF: ‘EU port closures hamper migrant rescue efforts’

Anne Garella, MSF Head of Mission in Italy, says the closure of Italian and Maltese ports to migrant rescue ships drastically reduces the effectiveness of life-saving missions.

By Devin Watkins

A humanitarian rescue boat carrying 60 migrants rescued off the coast of Libya docked in the Spanish port of Barcelona on Wednesday. The ship had been refused entry to Italian and Maltese ports.

Anne Garella, Head of Mission in Italy for Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF), told Vatican News’ Marie Duhamel that the closure of ports has a direct effect on efforts to rescue migrants at sea.

Listen to the full interview

“The closure of ports has a direct consequence on how much life we can save at sea, just by the simple effect that, when Italian or Maltese ports are closed, we at MSF are forced to reach [more distant] countries, such as Spain,” Ms. Garella said.

That extra time at sea, she said, keeps rescue boats away from search and rescue areas for more time.

‘Disturbing role’


Though irregular migration across the Mediterranean Sea has fallen this year at less than five percent of 2015 numbers, it has become more divisive politically. European states last week agreed to make it more difficult for migrants to enter the EU and to set up new migrant centers to handle new arrivals.

Ms. Garella said she thinks migrant rescue operations are playing “a disturbing role in the Mediterranean”.

“Those countries really don’t want us to see with our own eyes how people are being treated in Libya and how many people are dying at sea,” she said.

The political tendency now, Ms. Garella said, “is about keeping us at bay, keeping us at large, so that we are less [able] to witness and raise the awareness of the general public”.

Humanitarian imperative


Ms. Garella said she hopes for a more open attitude toward the humanitarian aspect of migration.

“I hope that the humanitarian imperative will come back onto the table,” she said.

Political issues, she said, should not “be made at the expense of human life, which is what is happening now.”

05 July 2018, 12:50