VALENCIA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on the influx of migrants into Europe (all times local):
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 boat operated by aid groups SOS Mediterranee Sea and Doctors Without Borders touched land shortly before 11 a.m. Sunday with 106 migrants onboard.
An Italian coast guard ship had already arrived in Valencia with 270 of the 630 total migrants that the Aquarius saved off Libyan shores over a week ago. Another Italian navy ship with the rest of the migrants from the Aquarius will arrive later.
Italy and Malta had denied entry to the rescue ship last Saturday. Spain then stepped in and offered to let it land. It took the convoy nearly a week to travel the 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) between Sicily and Spain.
The head of Doctors Without Borders in Spain says he’s glad that Spain has allowed an aid convoy with 630 migrants to dock but he’s worried about European nations closing their ports to those rescued at sea.
An Italian ship helping transport the 630 migrants saved by the rescue boat Aquarius arrived at the Spanish port of Valencia on Sunday morning. Italy and Malta had denied entry to the Aquarius last weekend before Spain stepped in to offer them a safe harbor. The journey to Valencia took nearly a week.
David Noguera tells The Associated Press that “I have mixed feelings. I am happy that the journey is over, a journey that was too long, and I am worried for the situation in the Mediterranean and the closing of European ports.”
The Aquarius, operated by Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee Sea, and another Italian government boat with migrants will dock in Valencia in the next few hours.
The first Italian government ship accompanying the migrant aid vessel Aquarius with 630 people aboard has docked at the Spanish port of Valencia, ending a weeklong perilous crossing of the Mediterranean.
Medical staff boarded the Italian coast guard vessel Dattilo after it arrived just before 7 a.m. Sunday It will be followed by the Aquarius and another Italian navy ship, the Orione, in the coming hours.
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 permission to dock and demanded that Malta do so. Malta also refused.
Two days later, Spain stepped in and offered to grant the migrants entry at Valencia, some 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) away.
The migrants were met by emergency workers, including health officials and psychologists, at the city’s marina. 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.
Spain’s minister of public works, said due to their ordeal, the migrants from the rescue ship 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.”
Jose Luis Abalos says “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.”
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.
Spain has accepted the French government’s offer to take in those migrants who want to go to France “once they have fulfilled the protocols.”
The refusal a week ago by Italy and Malta to allow the Aquarius to enter their ports has created a row between European Union members over how to handle immigration. In the first five months of this year, a total of 35,455 migrants have reached European shores.
This item corrects the name of the Spanish minister to Jose Luis Abalos.