Refugee rescue boat Aquarius docks in Spain

The SOS Mediterranee vessel Aquarius, carrying 629 migrant passengers, docked in Valencia, Spain on Sunday. Spanish and French officials promise opportunity for asylum.

Tonina Alomar
Tonina Alomar NewsMavens, Spain
Refugee rescue boat Aquarius docks in Spain - NewsMavens
EU migrant resuce mission at sea, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

The Aquarius has docked on the Spanish coast in Valencia. Earlier this week, Malta and Italy refused to take the vessel, which was initially heading towards Sicilian shores. Stranded for over a week, the passengers had to endure a 700 nautical mile-trip in increasingly deteriorating weather conditions.

The situation has revealed how deeply European policy has fractured over migration. At the beginning of the crisis, Minister of Interior Salvini refused to let the ship in, tweeting: "Italy is done bending over backwards and obeying -- this time there is someone who has to say no."  On Thursday, he added that the migrants had no right “to decide where to start and end their cruise.”

When Italy and Malta refused to take the Aquarius in, they were criticised over their handling of this incident by the public, NGOs, and other European countries such as France.

President Macron stated that there was "a degree of cynicism and irresponsibility in the Italian government's behaviour." 

Finally, the newly assembled Spanish government agreed to take them in and France offered to assist with this effort.

The question now is, what will happen to those that land on Spanish shores?

As of Monday, the passengers will be given 45 days to apply for asylum in Spain or France. Those who are not eligible for asylum could be put in detention centers and face expulsion.  

Details from the story:

  • The Aquarius, which is operated by SOS Méditerranée and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) rescued 629 people while on patrol close to the Libian coast at the beginning of the week.
  • There are 51 women and 10 children on board, most of whom slept on deck. Apart from seasickness, many have burns from a mix of fuel and seawater received during their rescue.
  • Vice-president of Valencian, Monica Oltra, called on the government to give asylum to the passengers, calling the situation a humanitarian crisis.
  • On arrival the passengers were met by medical personnel, and translators. They were given  health examinations and worked with state officials before being sent to 

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