Rescued migrant ship arrives in Spain

Italy Demands Migrant NGO Boats Leave Mediterranean Mocks Leftist Crew Members			Getty Images		17 Jun 2018

Italy Demands Migrant NGO Boats Leave Mediterranean Mocks Leftist Crew Members Getty Images 17 Jun 2018

The Aquarius rescue ship, a pawn in Europe's latest battle over immigration, has docked in the Spanish port of Valencia after a weeklong odyssey carrying migrants around the Mediterranean Sea.

The Aquarius rescued the migrants off Libya's coast last 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.

More than 120 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women are among those who have spent days crossing the western Mediterranean, according to officials in Valencia.

The Aquarius, operated by the aid groups SOS Mediterranee Sea and Doctors Without Borders, was stuck off the coast of Sicily on June 9 when Italy refused it permission to dock and demanded that Malta do so.

After also being turned away by Malta, the ship was offered a mooring in Spain and was forced to undergo a long and perilous journey to Valencia, where it is expected to dock on Sunday.

The first group of migrants, which included 274 people, arrived to the Spanish port at approximately 7:30 a.m. Sunday local time (1:30 a.m. ET) on board the Italian Coast Guard ship "Dattilo".

The Aquarius itself entered the port shortly after 9:30am.

"People are coming forward for everything: serving as translators, providing accommodation", said Johnson Tamayo, a 51-year-old artist and Red Cross volunteer.

As it neared port, those on board had danced and sang, their excitement captured in footage released on Twitter by SOS Mediterranee which operates the vessel together with Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Due to their ordeal, the people from the Aquarius were granted authorization to remain in Spain for 45 days before they must begin resolving their legal situations.

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Spain's coast guard said Saturday it has rescued more than 930 migrants and recovered four bodies Friday and Saturday in the Mediterranean Sea.

France will also accept a number of the migrants, Spain's deputy prime minister Carmen Calvo said yesterday. In a telegram, Spain's President, Pedro Sanchez, thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for his offer.

Migrants on board the Aquarius land in Valencia.

The Aquarius was sent away by Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini in an apparent bid to establish his new government's anti-migration credentials. Salvini said in a Facebook posting the NGO ships, the Lifeline and the Seefuchs, were off the Libyan coast waiting to pick up migrants who had been abandoned by human traffickers. Aid workers awaiting their arrival clapped and cheered as the first migrants walked down the gangway.

As migrants clash with each other in over crowded camps across Europe, we take a look through the hard task of policing the migrant crisis in Europe.

"The guarantee is that we will balance humanity and sensitivity toward these people with the fact that we live in a country that has its laws", she said.

Valencia City Council said on Saturday it was expecting the ship to arrive in the next few hours.

"They should know that Italy no longer wants to be an accomplice in the business of illegal immigration and therefore they will have to aim for other non-Italian ports".

Salvini, whose unashamedly xenophobic rhetoric formed a key part of his party's election campaign, appears determined to make the migration question his main priority even if Italy's denial of a safe harbour to the Aquarius this week sparked worldwide outrage. He's also shared anti-immigrant memes on social media.

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