ABOARD THE ASTRAL (AP) — A Spanish rescue ship set sail Thursday for international waters carrying four European parliamentarians as EU nations bickered over managing migrant flows across the Mediterranean Sea.
The Astral left Malta to join the Open Arms rescue ship already in the search and rescue zone off the coast of Libya. Both are operated by the Spain-based aid group Proactiva Open Arms.
Three Spanish and one Italian lawmaker joined the mission as observers and plan to share their accounts at the next European plenary session July 2-5 in Strasbourg. They are Miguel Urban, Ana Miranda and Javi Lopez of Spain, and Italian parliamentarian Eleonora Forenza of Italy.
Astral’s captain, Riccardo Gatti, says he is not sure the boat will be allowed back into Malta’s port. Several charity-run rescue ships have been denied docking in Italy and Malta in recent weeks.
Most Read Nation & World Stories
- A grandma knew she was being scammed, so she decided to swindle the swindler
- They had COVID-19 once. Then, they got it again.
- Single word sparks crossfire between Supreme Court, NPR and its star reporter Nina Totenberg
- An old Virginia plantation, a new owner and a family legacy unveiled
- COVID-19 tests: Different types and when to use them
“We are leaving now but we don’t know if we’ll return,” Gatti said as they left Malta before dawn. “Not because we don’t want to but because we don’t know if we’ll be allowed back in or if we’ll be arrested.”
The mission comes as the role of humanitarian ships aiding migrants is becoming a hot topic at an EU summit in Brussels that is focusing on EU migration policy.
Italy is pushing the 28-nation bloc to abandon the Dublin accords that require the country of first arrival to process migrants’ refugee claims. Italy argues that it is bearing a burden that belongs to all EU nations since landing in Italy is landing in Europe.