The Catalan president Quim Torra has offered a safe harbour to the Aquarius, a rescue ship stranded in the Mediterranean with 141 migrants on board.
‘I’ve asked Catalan ports to welcome the Aquarius ship in Palamós, Vilanova or Sant Carles de la Ràpita, all of which are ports managed by the Catalan government, in order to disembark the people with all the guarantees needed,’ said Torra via Twitter. ‘Catalonia will always be a welcoming land.’
Although the Catalan government is in charge of some minor ports (the largest ones, in Barcelona and Tarragona, are managed by Spain), Torra’s decision is set to trigger a political clash between his executive and the Spanish government led by Pedro Sánchez, as Spain has the last say on whether a ship can enter its waters.
The Spanish government said on Tuesday afternoon that ‘intense negotiations’ were underway at the European level, and that a solution for the Aquarius and the migrants on board of the ship was expected in the ‘coming hours’.
Italy and Malta have also rejected offering a safe harbour to the Aquarius, which drastically reduces the list of countries where the ship could dock.
The Aquarius is run by French charities SOS Mediterranée and Médecines Sans Frontières (MSF).