Rescued migrant ship arrives in Spain

Saul Bowman
June 20, 2018

The three ships docked in Spain on Sunday.

VALENCIA, Spain Ships in the Aquarius aid convoy docked today at the Spanish port of Valencia, ending a weeklong ordeal for hundreds of people who were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea only to become pawns in Europe's fight over immigration.

Medical staff wearing white overalls, gloves and masks then boarded the boat to carry out first medical checks as a police helicopter flew overhead. Ministers have already announced plans to study the removal of razor wire from barriers at Spain's North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, and to offer health services to migrants whose documents aren't in order.

The migrants, including 14 women, four children and a baby, were on a rubber boat in distress, and Lifeline helped them to transfer onto a Singaporean cargo ship, the Viking Amber. Spain ended up offering the ship safe harbour.

"At this moment, the boat is arriving in Spain with 629 presumed refugees and so I thank the Spanish government".

The boats will be met by around 1,000 Red Cross volunteers and 470 translators - numerous migrants have come from across Africa, with some from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The first person through the process was a 29-year-old man from South Sudan.

Meanwhile, on June 15, Italy's coastguard was recovering another 500 migrants, Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said.

"People were threatening to jump into the water (during) the standoff between Italy and Malta, because they were scared and said if we have to die we'd rather die at sea than in Libya".

Migration reform is likely to be a key topic at a meeting of European Union leaders later this month, as many countries continue to grapple with the political fallout caused by an influx of migrants in recent years.

Spanish authorities have said they will examine the migrants case-by-case to see if they qualify for asylum according to the country's regulations. I hope they take in the other 66,629 refugees.

The Aquarius case is important because it shows "that the European Union can not avert its gaze", Spain's Defense Minister Margarita Robles said in an interview with El Mundo newspaper on Sunday.

Doctors Without Borders tweeted a photo of one of its team telling the people on board what they could expect. "(The EU) must recognize that it needs an immigration policy that these times require".

Both Italy and Malta agreed to provide food and other supplies to the ships, and with the help of two Italian Navy ships, the migrants began their journey.

Most of the migrants arrived with virtually nothing, some not even a pair of shoes.

This comes as the country prepares for the arrival of a charity rescue ship that was denied port by Italy and Malta.

On hand, at the scene were 1,000 Red Cross workers greeting migrants as they stepped off. A private aid ship said it couldn't assume the unexpected passengers from Trenton because Italy wasn't assigning it a port within its navigational capacity. The country had been without a government since voters went to the polls in March, the longest such period in Italy's postwar history.

The case highlighted a change in Italy's policy by their country's new eurosceptic government, as the Express reported that over 600,000 people have arrived in the country via sea over the past five years.

Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said that any migrants who wish to go to France would be allowed to do, providing they had a legitimate claim to asylum.

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