The’Astral’, the sailboat of the NGO Proactiva Open Arms, ended yesterday in Palma, where it starts a tour of the island’s ports to share its experience in the rescue of more than 15,000 people in the central Mediterranean, between the coasts of Italy and from Libya.
Against all odds, but also against ultra-right movements, the pasotism of European governments and the Tripoli coastguards very given to returns ‘hot’, the Catalan NGO Proactiva Open Arms crosses the maritime corridor between Italy and Libya to not leave no refugee adrift or at the gates to reach the Italian coasts.
It does so on-board rescue ships such as the Open Arms tugboat or the Astral sailboat, which yesterday landed at the Real Club Náutico de Palma as part of an itinerary through various ports of the Balearic Islands to make known its mission to society, which the date has allowed the salvation of more than 15,000 people in the central Mediterranean.
The Astral has a dozen people in the crew: a captain, two rescue teams consisting of two bosses and four lifeguards, a cook, a doctor, a mechanic and two journalists. One of his volunteers is the Mallorcan Rubén Lago, who explains that he has participated in seven missions in the central Mediterranean. “I have always been very aware of the refugee situation, and I wanted to really work for them,” says Lago, who currently serves as volunteer coordinator for Proactiva Open Arms.
The most shocking scene
At this time, the scene that has most impacted him is that of a 15-year-old teenager who was rescued along with other people. He wore a white short-sleeved T-shirt, in which his personal information was written: name, surname, address of origin … “He had pointed it out so that if he drowned, they could recognize the body,” explains Lago. He points out that the phenomenon of immigrants who risk their lives to reach Europe is not alien to Mallorca. Last year, remember, a score of boats arrived on the island.
The state in which the refugees who leave the Libyan coast, a point of confluence of sub-Saharans, Syrians and other nationalities victims of the bitter cocktail of misery and war, “is getting worse”, underlines Lake. An idea that also highlights another volunteer, Marta Talayero, who works as a doctor and reports frequent cases of “hypothermia and malnutrition”.
The Astral has on board a sanitary equipment to attend emergencies, including an ultrasound scanner, since “many pregnant women come,” he says. “We work with very little margin, we are always on the verge of tragedy”, summarizes the captain of the sailboat, Riccardo Gatti. And in that line is pronounced the merchant seaman Juan Rodríguez, who explains that people smugglers do not travel with these immigrants who embark on a 300-nautical-mile adventure between Libya and the Italian coast. “They give them a compass and some instructions on how to fill the tank with gasoline, nobody knows anything about navigation”,
For his part, Gatti, an Italian who joined the NGO in September 2016, reports that the intrinsic complications of a rescue at sea, joins the uncooperative behavior of the Libyan coastguards.
Libyan Coast Guard
“Once they arrested us and threatened to shoot us,” says Gatti. He blames these coast guards for carrying out ‘hot’ returns to Libyan territory tolerated and even funded by European governments. “It’s a shame,” says the captain, who, on the other hand, highlights the role played by civil society when collaborating with the NGO.
Another factor that plays against humanitarian aid is the xenophobic campaigns carried out by right-wing movements that came to charter a boat in the area with a banner saying ‘You will not make your home from Europe’. The Mallorcan crewmember David Lladó recalls a collision with the xenophobic vessel. “They dedicated themselves to occupying radio channels to release their speech, and they were also shouting with loudspeakers,” he explains.
Until March 5, the Astral can be visited for free at the Real Club Náutico de Palma, from 10 am to 1 pm and from 4:30 pm to 8 pm. On March 6 will arrive in Puerto Portals; On the 8th of that same month, he will be in Sóller, and the 9th, in Alcúdia.
Source: Diario de Mallorca