The Moral Dimension: Migrants bailed out by Catalan refugee rescue NGO in Mediterranean Sea

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Lin Yu Hong
  • Open Arms ship rescuing  refugees in the Mediterranean Sea
    Open Arms ship rescuing refugees in the Mediterranean Sea.

Proactiva Open Arms has rescued more than 27.000 stranded migrants in Mediterranean Sea since 2016.

Status of refugees

The refugee crisis is severe worldwide. Statistics of UNHCR indicates that 68.5 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations, which was an increase of 2.9 million people over the previous year. Nevertheless, the passive attitude and inaction of the Spanish government graven the situation.

It is recorded by the Spanish government a total rejection rate of 59.6% of applications for asylum and protection, along with over 90% applications denied from refugees from Africa and Latin America. In this regard, more migrants intend to smuggle into European countries illegally through the coastline of Mediterranean Sea, causing severe casualties due to the lack of supply and equipment.

What is Proactiva Open Arms?

Proactiva Open Arms was established in early September 2015 and carried out its first rescue action that same month from its base on the Greek island of Lesbos. The NGO then divert its focus to the Central Mediterranean as the deaths and disappearances of migrants in have multiplied.

Achieving their goal of ‘to be where they need us’. The Organization has been operating in the Mediterranean Sea since 2016 in order to rescue stranded refugees. According to the NGO, they have already "saved 27,000 lives in barely two years,” in the Mediterranean Sea.

Despite the enormous efforts contributed by Proactiva Open Arms, resistance from authorities harden the missions of ocean rescue. They have faced the opposition of Italian and Maltese authorities several times to dock in their ports due to the migrants loaded on their boat. In January 2019, the Open Arms migrant rescue ship was detained by The Spanish port authorities and refused its permission to leave Barcelona's port, indicating problems with its certification.

At the time, the ship was about to embark on a new search and rescue mission near Libya. During custody, more than 170 people estimated have died at sea, as stated by Ruben Wagensberg, a member of political party “Republican Left of Catalonia”. He regretted that in the time the Open Arms vessel has not been allowed to set sail by saying: “The time the vessel spends in Barcelona's port is not counted in days but in deaths.”

Regardless of the gigantic pressure and restrictions from the Spanish government along with obstructions from Italian and Maltese authorities. Proactiva Open Arms have managed to conduct rescue missions and saved over 59000 lives by the end of August 2018. Preventing deaths and tragedies and giving more refugees a second opportunity for life.


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