News ID: 216509
Published: 0717 GMT June 11, 2018

Spain offers to take in drifting migrant ship

Spain offers to take in drifting migrant ship
REUTERS

Spain offered on Monday to take in a rescue ship that is drifting in the Mediterranean sea with 629 migrants stranded on board after Italy and Malta refused to let it dock.

The Aquarius picked up the migrants from inflatable boats and rafts off the coast of Libya at the weekend, and the United Nations refugee agency said on Monday it was running out of provisions, Reuters reported.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who took office just over a week ago, has given instructions for the boat to be admitted to the eastern port of Valencia, his office said in a statement.

"It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people, to comply with our human rights obligations," Sanchez's office said.

The Aquarius took the migrants, including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and seven pregnant women, toward Italy, but the country's new, far-right Interior Minister barred it from docking and said it should go to Malta.

Malta refused to take the ship, saying it was Italy's responsibility as the rescue was overseen by the Italian coastguard. The tiny island says it already accepts proportionately more refugees than Italy.

Sanchez made his offer after the mayors of Valencia and Barcelona both offered to take the boat in at their ports.

Matteo Salvini, the head of Italy’s far-right League party who became interior minister this month vowing to crack down on the influx of migrants from Africa, blocked the ship, operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders, over the weekend.

"Saving lives at sea is a duty, but transforming Italy into an enormous refugee camp is not," Salvini said on Facebook on Monday. "Italy is done bowing its head and obeying. This time there's someone saying no."

Pictures issued by SOS Mediterranee showed hundreds of Africans huddled aboard, including a young girl wrapped in a blanket in the arms of a rescue worker.

 

 

   
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