World: Ships Carrying African Migrants Finally Dock in Spain
London, June 17, 2018, (AltAfrika) – The first of three ships carrying a total of 630 migrants from Africa has docked in Spain after Italy and Malta refused them entry.
The Italian coastguard vessel Dattilo arrived just before 7am on Sunday and will be followed by the NGO-run Aquarius and another Italian navy ship.
Among the African migrants are 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and seven pregnant women. They were met by emergency health workers and psychologists at the port of Valencia.
Today marks the end of their nightmare journey, which first saw them rescued off the coast of Libya last weekend only to get stuck in the Mediterranean after two countries denied them entry.
The three ships got stuck off the coast of Sicily last Saturday when Italian officials refused to let them dock, demanding Malta did so instead.
But when Maltese authorities also refused, Spain stepped in. 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.
They were met by emergency workers, including health officials and psychologists, at the city’s marina this morning.
The migrants, mainly from Africa, were welcomed by over 2,000 people, including 1,000 Red Cross volunteers and 470 translators.
Dozens of reporters who were on hand to cover their arrival were kept at a distance and no top government officials were expected at the port.
High waves and winds forced the convoy to take a detour on their 930-mile voyage to Spain. A huge banner was earlier put up at the port saying ‘Welcome home’ in various languages including Catalan, the local language, and Arabic.
The passengers are made up of 450 adult men and 80 women and come from 26 countries, mainly from Africa but also Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Chartered by a French aid group, Aquarius rescued the migrants off Libya’s coast last weekend and were then supported by two Italian Government ships.
Spain’s minister of public works, Miguel Angel Abalos, said on Saturday that the migrants from the Aquarius 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’.
Abalos said the Spanish government ‘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’.
Under the EU’s asylum laws – currently the subject of a major political dispute and under revision – migrants must apply for asylum in the country where they first enter Europe.
In practice, the policy has placed a heavy burden on Italy and Greece, where hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers have arrived in recent years.
Spain’s new Socialist government has taken up the cause of the migrants’ plight to demonstrate its commitment to protecting human rights and respecting international law.
The arrival of the Aquarius convoy comes during a spike of seaborne migrants crossing from African shores to southern Spain.
Spain’s maritime rescue service pulled 986 people from 69 small boats its rescue craft reached in waters in or near the Strait of Gibraltar between Friday and Saturday. It also recovered four bodies.
At least 792 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean so far this year, according to the United Nations.
Through the first five months of 2018, a total of 35,455 migrants reached European shores, with 11,792 of them arriving in Spain.