Rescue ships dock in Spain as migrant debate roils Europe

20 June, 2018, 01:06 | Author: Jason Torres
  • Matteo Salvini

Madrid said Saturday it had accepted an offer from France to take in migrants from the Aquarius rescue ship, now en route to Spain with more than 600 people on board.

Last week, 629 migrants on the Aquarius rescue ship were stuck in global waters off the coast of Italy and Malta, both of which denied it entry.

Among those rescued are 123 minors, 11 children, and 80 women - seven of whom are pregnant.

The passengers come from 26 countries, mainly from Africa but also Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, according to Doctors Without Borders. Majority from Africa but others are from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, according to medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières.

The ship's predicament gave Italy's new government the chance to assert its anti-immigrant credentials, and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, in office for just over a week, took the opportunity to underline a more liberal stance.

Spain eventually stepped in and agreed to receive the refugees as a "political gesture" to "oblige Europe to forge a common policy to a common problem", Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said.

Italy's refusal to admit the migrant-packed Aquarius ship met little protest from other European Union countries apart from France, which analysts see as a sign of how hardliners are now shaping solutions to the migration crisis.

Valencia emergency official Jorge Suarez said some of the migrants were in a state of shock.

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Italy on Saturday demanded that the Netherlands recall two Dutch-flagged migrant rescue ships after one of the non-governmental organisations that operate them called Rome's interior minister a fascist.

Spanish authorities are examining the migrants on a case-by-case basis to see who may qualify for asylum.

David Noguera, the head of Doctors Without Borders in Spain, said he was glad that Spain allowed the migrants in but said he was anxious that more European nations would close their ports to those rescued at sea in the future.

High waves and winds forced the convoy to take a detour on the way and the conditions are said to have caused migrants on board to become seasick.

"Malta and Italy didn't open their ports, but then most other European governments didn't help either", said Izza Leghtas, a senior advocate at Europe for Refugees International.

Spain has accepted the French government's offer to take in those migrants who want to go to France "once they have fulfilled the protocols established for their arrival".

After Spain offered to take them in, the ship started an 800-mile journey to Valencia along with two Italian ships sent to ease the overcrowding. The boat of NGO SOS Méditerránee and two ships of Italian navy that escort him will begin to reach docks of port of Valencia around six in morning, according to last data of scope that has provided this noon deputy director of Emergenc IAS of Generalitat Valenciana, Jorge Suárez. Salvini said in a Facebook posting the NGO ships, the Lifeline and the Seefuchs, were off the Libyan coast waiting to pick up migrants who had been abandoned by human traffickers. Italy denied the Aquarius a place to dock, insisting it was Malta's responsibility. "As minister and as a father, I take this action for the benefit of all".

"People are coming to Europe seeking European values of solidarity and support", Red Cross Secretary General Elhadj As Sy said Saturday in Valencia.

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