Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Spain offers to take migrants stranded in Mediterranean Sea

Spain offers to take migrants stranded in Mediterranean Sea

Italy's new government assumes power at a time when nativist populist parties have growing clout in Europe and its anti-immigrant stance will no doubt be welcomed by Hungary's Viktor Orban, whose government is now trying to criminalize people working for groups that assist asylum seekers.

File Image of MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship.

Italy refused because some politicians there don't want the country to take in as many migrants as it has in the past.

The Spanish government said it would accept the ship at the port of Valencia.

Spain's prime minister, Socialist party leader Pedro Sanchez, offered to resolve the impasse by allowing the Aquarius access to the port of Valencia on Monday.

On Friday of last week, it was the first vessel to reach the coast of Libya after a new populist and openly anti-immigrant government had taken office in Italy.

Italy's far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who seems ready to vie even with his hero Donald Trump in cruelty toward the most vulnerable, declared victory on Monday in his campaign to defy worldwide law by refusing to accept more than 600 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean this weekend.

Matteo Salvini, Italy's new interior minister and head of the far-right League, has said his decision not to accept the migrant boat is aimed at forcing other European states to help bear the strain.

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Spain has accepted a rescue ship carrying 629 migrants which had been turned away by the new Italian government, avoiding a humanitarian crisis and diffusing a political stand-off between two European Union countries.

"This Europe is not showing solidarity", Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, adding that "Italy has to deal with the problem" of illegal human trafficking and migration flows "all by itself".

But in order to do so, coastguard authorities said migrants will need to disembark Aquarius and be transferred onto Italian government-run ships.

The move was widely condemned by humanitarian groups, with reports that mayors across southern Italy, including in Palermo and Naples, had pledged to defy Salvini's move and open up their city's ports to the ship.

"The boat is now heading north towards a secure port", SOS Mediterranee tweeted without specifying its destination, though virtually every such migrant boat over the past five years ended up in Italy. There are also 21 patients on board who have suffered severe chemical burns after being exposed to a toxic mixture of sea water and fuel for an extended period of time.

Italy plans to transfer some migrants crammed aboard a charity boat onto other vessels on Tuesday and then sail them all to Spain, despite appeals from humanitarian groups to let the group land immediately.

But the charity's missions will continue "as long as there are people drowning in the Mediterranean, as long as we have the resources, and as long as we are able to act and we are not kicked out of the area", she said.

The 629 rescued migrants on board the ship Aquarius, operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without borders, come from Eritrea, Ghana, Nigeria and Sudan, and include 88 women - seven of which are pregnant - 123 unaccompanied minors and 11 children.

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