Spain rescues more than 900 boat migrants, finds four bodies

17 Juin, 2018, 10:05 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • France offers to welcome the Aquarius migrants who want to go to that country

The ship is making the 1,500-kilometre (930-mile) voyage to Spain accompanied by an Italian coast guard vessel, which has taken on board some of the migrants.

Spain's maritime rescue service says it has saved 825 people and recovered four bodies from dozens of migrant boats attempting the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea over the past two days.

Italy's hard-line, anti-immigration interior minister, Matteo Salvini, on Saturday warned ships carrying migrants as part of a humanitarian mission not to try to dock in Italy, even as crowds rallied in Rome in solidarity with migrants.

"This obliges us all and mainly the European authorities and the countries of the European Union to rethink this model at once", Noguera said at a news conference in the Spanish port city of Valencia.

"These gentlemen know that Italy no longer wants to be complicit in the business of illegal immigration, and therefore will have to look for other ports (not Italian) where to go".

Salvini, whose unashamedly xenophobic rhetoric formed a key part of his party's election campaign, appears determined to make the migration question his main priority even if Italy's denial of a safe harbour to the Aquarius this week sparked global outrage.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini speaks Wednesday in the Italian Senate about the migrant ship Aquarius. The ships are expected to arrive Sunday in Valencia.

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The migrants aboard the Aquarius spent 20 hours in overcrowded rubber dinghies before being rescued. "Trying to get lifejackets, throwing at them, at the people, as they fell".

Following Salvini's Facebook post, one of the NGOs, Mission Lifeline, tweeted in German "When fascists promote us".

Meanwhile, the prosecutor of Catania in Sicily said that NGOs providing assistance to migrants in the Mediterranean "are part of a deeply flawed system, which gives traffickers and unscrupulous criminals access to Europe". "They will come anyway, but more of them will die".

In this photo taken on May 6, 2018 the French NGO's ship Aquarius, a search and rescue ship run in partnership between "SOS Mediterranee" and Doctors without borders (MSF), is seen some 24 nautical miles off the Libyan coast.

More than 600,000 migrants have made the crossing from Libya to Italy in the past four years, and Salvini's stance reflects frustration that the rest of Europe refuses to take its share of arrivals.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, accused Salvini last week of cynicism and irresponsibility, but at the same time refused to allow the Aquarius to dock at French ports. Many protesters held up placards, with one calling on the government to "Open the ports and the wallets".

On Friday, the NGO had indicated on Twitter that its boat was stationed off the Libyan coast and engaged in rescuing 118 people. The migrants - mostly from Africa - will join roughly 37,000 others the United Nations says have reached European shores so far this year. The decrease is in part the result of the European Union and Italy training and funding Libya's coastguard to intercept vessels.

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