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, reports the AP. Two volunteer firefighters on Wednesday climbed the 197-foot monument towering above the northeastern Spanish city and placed the vest with the words "Open Arms" on the statue. 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."
The move came as a rescue ship carrying 60 migrants arrived in Barcelona's 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 and the group—including five women, a 9-year-old, a 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. (The Columbus statue wasn't exactly popular with everyone to begin with.)