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Spain welcomes migrants from disputed ship

By BBC | June 17th 2018 at 11:24:34 GMT +0300

The disputed migrants checking into ort Valencia. [Courtesy]

The Spanish port of Valencia has seen the arrival of the first ship carrying migrants rescued from the Mediterranean Sea and turned away by Italy and Malta.

The first of three vessels entered harbour soon after dawn. Some of the 629 rescued near Libya last weekend by the Aquarius ship began disembarking.

Health officials and interpreters are on hand to offer support.

Spain's new socialist government has promised free healthcare and says it will investigate each asylum case.

"It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people, to comply with our human rights obligations," Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said earlier this week.

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He has adopted a migrant-friendly stance since taking up his post two weeks ago.

How are the migrants being received?

An Italian coast guard ship, the Dattilo, entered the port of Valencia at 06:20 (04:20 GMT). It was carrying 274 migrants, the Italian news agency Ansa reported.

On Valencia's quayside, 1,000 Red Cross workers were on hand to greet the migrants as they stepped off the ship. Police officers have also been drafted in specifically to handle their arrival.

A second Italian ship, the Orione, and the Aquarius itself are expected to dock later on Sunday morning, carrying the rest of the group.

Who are the migrants?

The migrants aboard the Aquarius spent 20 hours in overcrowded rubber dinghies before being rescued. They have since spent a week aboard the rescue ship in rough seas - with many suffering seasickness.

They come from 26 countries. Most of the 629 are from Africa but others are from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières says.

Officials say the rescued migrants include 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 younger children under the age of 13 and seven pregnant women.

What will happen to them now?

Initially, the migrants will receive food and hygiene kits and everything else necessary to make them comfortable after weeks of hardship, Red Cross official Pedro Redon told the BBC.

The pregnant women will be taken for check-ups. Everyone on board will receive psychological help and the Spanish government has promised them medical assistance.

Police will have to identify them and take them to police stations to initiate immigration procedures.

French President Emmanuel Macron's government will work with Spain to deal with the migrants.

Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said that any migrants who wish to go to France would be allowed to do, providing they had a legitimate claim to asylum.


migrants italy-malta standoff spain welcomes migrants port valencia asylum
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