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Monday 23 July 2018

Rescue boat Aquarius finally docks in Valencia

Italy and Malta had denied entry to the rescue ship last Saturday.

Migrants are checked by emergency workers after arriving in Valencia Alberto Saiz/AP)
Migrants are checked by emergency workers after arriving in Valencia Alberto Saiz/AP)

By Renata Brito and Iain Sullivan, Associated Press

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

The boat operated by aid groups SOS Mediterranee Sea and Doctors Without Borders touched land shortly before 11am Sunday with 106 migrants on board.

An Italian coastguard ship had already arrived in Valencia with 270 of the 630 migrants that the Aquarius saved off Libyan shores more than 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 dock. It took the convoy nearly a week to travel the 930 miles between Sicily and Spain.

The head of Doctors Without Borders in Spain said he was glad that Spain had allowed the convoy to dock but he was worried about European nations closing their ports to those rescued at sea.

David Noguera told The Associated Press: “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.”

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

Mr Abalos said: “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 migrants include 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and as many as seven pregnant women.

Press Association

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