CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 June 2018

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Spain welcomes rescue boat rejected by Italy and Malta

ROME (Agencies): Spain announced it would let the SOS Méditerranée ship, Aquarius, holding 629 migrants and refugees rescued from the Mediterranean, dock in Valencia, after Italy and Malta refused to accept the vessel, CNN reported on June 11.
 
Aquarius, had been on standby between Malta and Sicily since June 10, waiting for permission to dock at a nearby port of safety, CNS reported. It had rescued hundreds of people from unsafe rubber boats and also took in another 400 people rescued by Italian vessels.
 
Doctors Without Borders, which runs the ship together with SOS Méditerranée, tweeted on June 11 that seven pregnant women, 15 people with serious chemical burns, several suffering from near drowning and hypothermia, and 123 unaccompanied minors were among those on board were.
 
The Italian minister of the interior, Matteo Salvini, announced on June 10 that all Italian ports would be closed to the rescue boat after Maltese authorities refused to allow it to dock, saying international law required it to dock in Italy.
 
However, The Guardian reported on June 11 that the mayors of several Italian ports, including Palermo, Naples, Messina and Reggio Calabria, pledged to defy the move by new, populist Italian government. Leoluca Orlando, the mayor of Palermo, said he was ready to open the city’s seaport to allow the rescued migrants to safely disembark.
 
“Palermo in ancient Greek meant ‘complete port’,” The Guardian reported him as saying.
 
“We have always welcomed rescue boats and vessels who saved lives at sea. We will not stop now,” Orlando said. 
 
He said, “Salvini is violating the international law. He has once again shown that we are under an extreme far-right government."
 
But the mayors’ defiance may not be practical without the direct support of the Italian coastguard.
 
Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, announced later on June 11 that his country would grant the Aquarius permission to dock for “humanitarian reasons. It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people.”
 
Meanwhile CNS reported that the Rome-based Sant’Egidio Community called on Italy to remain faithful to its traditional values, starting with the duty to save human lives that are in danger. It also urged other European Union nations to fulfill their responsibilities, reminding them that rescue ships are allowed to dock in other countries bordering the Mediterranean, not just Italy and Greece.
 
In a statement released on June 1, Jesuit Father Camillo Ripamonti, president of Centro Astalli, the Jesuit Refugee Service refugee centre in Rome, criticised “demonstrations of power” and putting politics before the lives of migrants. 

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