Boat Migrants Rocked by EU Political Storm Arrive in Spain

Boat Migrants Rocked by EU Political Storm Arrive in SpainBoat Migrants Rocked by EU Political Storm Arrive in Spain

The first ship in the Aquarius aid convoy docked Sunday at the Spanish port of Valencia, ending a weeklong ordeal for hundreds of people who were rescued from the perilous Mediterranean only to become the latest pawn in Europe’s battle over immigration.

Medical staff boarded the Italian coast guard vessel Dattilo after it arrived just before 7 a.m. Sunday and the 270 migrants on board soon began to disembark. The rescue ship Aquarius and another Italian navy ship, the Orione, were to arrive in the coming hours, discharging 630 migrants in all, ABC News reported.

The Aquarius, operated by the aid groups SOS Mediterranee Sea and Doctors Without Borders, was stuck off the coast of Sicily last Saturday when Italy refused it permission to dock and demanded that Malta do so. Malta also refused.

After days of bickering and food and water running low on the rescue ship, Spain stepped in and offered to grant the rescue boat entry some 1,500 kilometers away. The journey across the Mediterranean to Valencia took nearly a week.

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

“I have mixed feelings,” he told The Associated Press on Sunday as the first boat arrived. “I am happy that the journey (for the Aquarius migrants) is over—a journey that was too long—and I am worried for the situation in the Mediterranean and the closing of European ports.”

  Shaken Migrants

The migrants were met by emergency workers, health officials, Red Cross volunteers and psychologists at the city’s marina. Each were assigned to a translator and authorities worked to determine their identities before they were sent to welcome centers. The first migrant was a 29-year-old man from South Sudan.

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

“They are very shaken,” Suarez said. “Put yourself in their position, you get off a ship and the first people who greet you are wearing masks.”

Spanish authorities say they will examine the migrants case-by-case to see who may qualify for asylum.

Still, due to their ordeal, the migrants from the Aquarius will be granted a “special authorization” to remain in the country for one month before “they will be dealt with according to our laws, without exception,” said Spain’s minister of public works, Jose Luis Abalos.

“Spain will act with sensitivity and at the same time within the law, and with a message to Europe that it doesn’t have an immigration policy up to the challenge at hand,” he added.

Spain also accepted the French government’s offer to take in those migrants who want to go to France “once they have fulfilled the protocols.”

The boatload of migrants that was forced to spend days crossing the western Mediterranean includes 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and as many as seven pregnant women. After Spain invited the Aquarius to dock, Italy sent the Dattilo and Orione to help transport the migrants.


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