Global News

Boat migrants rocked by European Union political storm to arrive in Spain

Boat migrants rocked by European Union political storm to arrive in Spain

The Aquarius rescued the migrants off Libya's coast the previous weekend but Italy's new populist government and Malta both refused to let it dock, accusing each other of failing to meet their humanitarian and European Union commitments.

That left the ship, which at the time was overburdened with more than 600 migrants, stranded at sea in risky conditions.

The Aquarius arrived carrying 106 people rescued from unstable boats near Libya.

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". The 270 migrants on board soon began to disembark after medical staff had made a preliminary inspection.

High waves and winds had forced the convoy to take a detour on its 1,500km voyage to Spain.

Spanish national police official Bernardo Alonso says that, due to the ordeal of their weeklong odyssey across the Mediterranean Sea, the 630 migrants arriving to the port of Valencia Sunday will have this dispensation.

EASO says there is a still a backlog: more than 950,000 applications were still awaiting a final decision at the end of a year ago, nearly half of them in Germany.

Spain's minister of public works, Miguel Angel Abalos, said that the migrants from the Aquarius would be granted a "special authorisation" to remain in the country for one month before "they will be dealt with according to our laws without exception".




The rescued people stayed on the Navy boat for several more days before being transferred to the Italian coast guard vessel on Sunday morning. "(The EU) must recognize that it needs an immigration policy that these times require".

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said Monday that half of the more than 600 migrants who arrived at the port have requested asylum in France. It originally carried 629 migrants but some were later moved onto two Italian vessels escorting it to Spain.

The majority of the 630 migrants are from Africa, including 450 men and 80 women, of which at least seven are pregnant, according to Valencian authorities.

The Italian coastguard vessel Dattilo was the first of the three boats to arrive just before 7am.

The EU's asylum office says the number of people applying for worldwide protection in Europe has plunged but remains higher than before 2015, when more than one million migrants entered, many fleeing the war in Syria. The issue has put strong domestic pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, provoked a spat between France and Italy and prompted eastern nations like Hungary and Poland to refuse to take in any migrants.

The warmer weather has caused a spike in migrants taking off from North Africa for Europe.

The Aquarius, operated by Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee Sea, and another Italian government boat with migrants will dock in Valencia in the next few hours.

Joseph Wilson contributed from Barcelona, Spain.


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