Published: Wed, June 20, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

European rulers plot new clampdown on refugees after Aquarius docks in Spain

European rulers plot new clampdown on refugees after Aquarius docks in Spain

FILE- This June 12, 2018 photo released Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by French NGO "SOS Mediterranee" shows migrants being transferred from the Aquarius ship to Italian Coast Guard boats, in the Mediterranean Sea.

The charity ship Aquarius operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee arrived at the Spanish port of Valencia on Sunday, as the country welcomed the ship and its 629 migrants on board.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is criticizing the government's decision to identify refugees from the rescue ship Aquarius who might be eligible for asylum in France.

Spain announced Saturday that it has accepted an offer by the French government to take in those migrants who want to go to France "once they have fulfilled the protocols established for their arrival".

Upon arrival, the seven pregnant women on board the boats were immediately taken for check-ups, and everyone on board, including 123 minors, will receive psychological help, Spanish Red Cross officials said. "We started taking life-jackets off of people as they climbed up (into the rescue boat) and throwing them to people falling into the water".

On Saturday, he had warned other ships carrying migrants as part of a humanitarian mission not to try to dock in Italy.

Italy's new populist government is criticizing aid groups that rescue migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, declaring two German rescue boats can't dock in Italian ports even though the groups operate at sea and don't bring migrants ashore. It is one of three vessels carrying more than 600 migrants in total to Spain.

It will arrive close to the island of Lampedusa on Sunday morning where an Italian coast guard vessel will take the migrants.

In Rome, thousands of people protested against Italy's anti-migrant policies, as they demanded the government find a more humane solution to an issue which has divided Europe.

David Noguera, the head of Doctors Without Borders in Spain, said he was glad that Spain allowed the migrants in but said he was anxious that more European nations would close their ports to those rescued at sea in the future.

Spain then stepped in and offered to let it dock.

The current asylum laws for the European Union require a migrant to apply for asylum in the country where they first enter Europe, but the flow of migrants coming to Europe is not always constant or evenly distributed.

All the migrants will get special 45-day humanitarian permits to stay, and asylum requests will be assessed, Chief Inspector of Immigration and Border Police Bernardo Alonso said.

The boats will be met by around 1,000 Red Cross volunteers and 470 translators - numerous migrants have come from across Africa, with some from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

France has offered to take in any passengers who qualify for asylum.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm in Brussels, limited itself to appeals for solidarity among the 28 member states and for humanity toward migrants adrift at sea.

Spain's Foreign Minister Josep Borrell arrives to attend the first Cabinet meeting at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, June 8, 2018.

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