Two activists sit on top of the 60-meter (197-feet) monument Christopher Columbus tower after placing a vest with the words "Open Arms" on the statue in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, June 4, 2018. Activists in Barcelona have dressed in an orange life-vest a statue of 15th-century explorer Christopher Columbus to turn attention to the loss of life of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

The Latest: Columbus statue protest over migrant deaths

July 04, 2018 - 7:32 am

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on migration into Europe (all times local):

1:30 p.m.

Activists in Barcelona have dressed a statue of 15th-century explorer Christopher Columbus in an orange life-vest to draw attention to the loss of migrant and refugee lives in the Mediterranean Sea.

Two volunteer firefighters on Wednesday climbed the 60-meter (197-foot) monument towering above the northeastern Spanish city and placed the vest with the words "Open Arms" on the statue.

A charity-run rescue vessel called Open Arms has arrived in Barcelona's port with 60 migrants who had been rejected by authorities in Italy and Malta.

Non-governmental groups say they are being blocked and forced to take long journeys, leaving unattended a busy migrant transit route where deaths are mounting.

Mar Sabe, a spokeswoman with the Proactiva Open Arms charity, said Wednesday's action was aimed at highlighting that "violating the rights of migrants is violating everybody's rights."


1 p.m.

Aid groups say France's system for handling the unprecedented number of unaccompanied migrant children is arbitrary and hurts those who need help the most.

In a report Wednesday, Human Rights Watch described a confusing system that is stacked against minors. The aid group Medecins Sans Frontiers echoed the finding, saying France's default is to assume someone claiming to be under 18 is lying.

Around 25,000 young people claiming to be unaccompanied migrant children arrived in France last year. Of those, the claims of around 14,000 were accepted, the groups say.

But they say reasons for rejection were contradictory — children were denied for being too articulate, or not articulate enough. Those whose claims are accepted receive housing and education; those rejected can be expelled or jailed.


11:55 a.m.

The Portuguese picked as the next leader of the U.N.'s migration agency predicts that the number of migrants heading from North Africa to Europe will grow and that European countries will increasingly refuse to let them in.

Antonio Vitorino says "I have no illusions. I know that in coming years the flow of migrants will increase and (destination) countries will close in on themselves."

Vitorino told Portuguese television channel SIC that cooperation between the migrants' countries of origin and European Union countries "is the only response" that will solve the issue of migration to Europe.

He says refugees seeking asylum must be guaranteed protection. He says the admittance of economic migrants depends on whether European labor markets can absorb them.

Vitorino was selected last week as the next director-general of the International Organization for Migration and takes office Oct. 1.


10:45 a.m.

A rescue ship carrying 60 migrants has arrived in a Spanish port after being refused entry by Italy and Malta, the second time in a month that a humanitarian group has been forced to travel for days to unload people rescued in the central Mediterranean.

The Open Arms ship docked Wednesday in the northeastern port of Barcelona, where the group — including 5 women, a 9-year-old toddler and four teenagers — will be going through health checks and identification procedures.

The Spanish aid group Proactiva Open Arms said the migrants come from 14 countries and are in good health.

Doctors Without Borders says more than 500 people have died in the Mediterranean since the Aquarius, another rescue ship, was blocked from ports in Italy and Malta in June.

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