Wednesday 24 October 2018

Spain to allow blocked migrant rescue ship to dock at Valencia

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said it was Spain’s duty to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.

Both Italy and Malta had refused access to the Aquarius (AP)
Both Italy and Malta had refused access to the Aquarius (AP)

By Nicole Winfield

Spain’s new prime minister has ordered authorities to allow a rescue ship carrying 629 migrants to dock in the eastern port of Valenica after the boat was refused access by Italy and Malta.

Pedro Sanchez’s office said: “It is our duty to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a secure port for these people.”

Amid the political dispute, the Aquarius, a rescue ship belonging to the SOS Mediterraneee charity, has been stuck in the Mediterranean Sea with its passengers, including 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women.

Medical workers said food on board the ship is going to run out by Monday night.

The government statement said Spain wanted to comply with its international responsibilities on humanitarian crises.

The leaders of Italy and Malta thanked Spain for the allowing the boat to dock.

The Aquarius took on the migrants from human traffickers’ boats in the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday.

Italian premier Giuseppe Conte thanked Spain for responding to his country’s appeal for a fellow European Union country to receive the asylum-seekers.

Maltese PM Joseph Muscat posted a thank-you tweet that also blamed Italy for the ship’s prolonged journey. He says Malta would send fresh supplies to the Aquarius.

Italy’s new right-wing interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has vowed to close Italian ports to rescue ships following the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants in recent years.

Calling the dispute over where the Aquarius should dock a “European issue”, Mr Muscat called for talks to “prevent this from happening again”.

Press Association

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