Spain rescues more than 900 migrants at sea, recovers 4 bodies | News | DW | 16.06.2018
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Spain rescues more than 900 migrants at sea, recovers 4 bodies

The coast guard has rescued migrants from 68 different smuggling boats in the last two days. This is in addition to the 630 people due to arrive in Spain on Sunday after being turned away by Italy and Malta.

The Spanish coast guard said Saturday that it has rescued 933 people and recovered four bodies from the Mediterranean Sea over the past two days.

Officials said the migrants were plucked from 68 different smuggling boats that were intercepted by the rescue vessels.

The surge in arrivals comes as the country prepares to take in another 630 migrants that were turned away by Italy and Malta. The Aquarius and two Italian boats carrying the migrants are due to arrive at the Spanish port of Valencia on Sunday.

Health officials, emergency workers and psychologists were called up to be on hand at the city's marina.

Spanish officials plan to do a case-by-case analysis of the migrants' requests for asylum.

More than 120 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women are among those who have spent days crossing the western Mediterranean, according to Spanish officials in Valencia.

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

Infographic comparing migrant landings in Italy from 2016 to 2018

A statement from the Spanish government said Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez "appreciated the cooperation of [French] President [Emmanuel] Macron and believes this is the framework of cooperation that Europe should use to respond" to the immigration crisis confronting Europe.

Desperate people

The refusal by Italy and Malta to allow the rescue boat Aquarius to dock at their ports has intensified a political fight among European Union members over how to handle the influx of migrants.

Some 2 million migrants entered the European Union in 2016, and hundreds of thousands more have entered over the past 18 months.

The new Socialist government in Spain has extended a welcoming hand to the migrants to show its commitment to protecting human rights and respecting international law.

Thousands of migrants attempt the treacherous journey in marginally seaworthy dinghies across the Mediterranean — from North Africa to Europe — desperate to escape violent conflicts or extreme poverty.

Watch video 01:37

Spain to take in refugee ship Aquarius

The United Nations reports that at least 792 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in 2018. Through the first five months of the year, at least 35,455 migrants have reached European shores, with 11,792 of them arriving in Spain.

The issue is threatening to tear apart the European Union, with right-wing nationalist parties railing against the influx of foreigners and exploiting the crisis to stoke fear among inhabitants in their home countries.

"As long as we keep refusing the idea that we have a collective problem that can only be tackled with collective solutions - as long as we don't see that - we will not find a solution," European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans warned. "We will fail collectively."

Read more: Macron blasts Italy over migrant ship

bik/rc (AP, Reuters)

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