More than 600 migrants that were pulled from the Mediterranean Sea earlier this month arrived at the Spanish port of Valencia on Sunday, ending a grueling nine-day voyage — but leaving wide open a fierce debate in Europe over how to handle immigration.
Spain offered safe-haven for the 629 mainly sub-Saharan migrants aboard an NGO rescue ship and two Italian military vessels after Italy and Malta refused to let them enter.
CGTN’s Al Goodman was there as the convoy arrived in Valencia, Spain.
The Aquarius arrives at Valencia, Spain. This ship is now the focal point of an immigration debate consuming Europe. Just a week ago, it was bulging with migrants rescued from the Mediterranean Sea. But after Spain’s new Socialist Government offered a safe port, many were transferred to an Italian Coast Guard vessel and an Italian Naval ship.
UPDATE: #MSF team onboard #Aquarius explain to people rescued that they will disembark this morning in port of Valencia and what they can expect. People are calm and pleased to be arriving in #Spain. pic.twitter.com/ldnHgNwYTh
— MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) June 17, 2018
The migrants are from 25 countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. The group is made up mostly of men and also includes 100 minors without their parents; along with some 80 women, 7 of whom are pregnant. Spanish medical and aid workers, along with the police, met them at the port to provide immediate care and check their status.
🔴UPDATE: Disembarkation of 106 persons from the #Aquarius in #Valencia is completed. After 8 days @sea, the rescued ppl and our teams say goodbye singing "This is for Aquarius, this is for SOS, this is for MSF". pic.twitter.com/M6UqOT67Lk
— SOS MEDITERRANEE GER (@SOSMedGermany) June 17, 2018
Their future in Europe is hardly a private discussion. The Continent is divided over how many immigrants to accept from poorer countries.
The Aquarius convoy came to Spain only after Italy and Malta refused them entry. France has offered to take some of the migrants and many Spanish regions and cities have offered shelter – while Austria and Germany debated immigration.
The debate over these migrants also has the Spanish government thinking it might remove razor wire at the top of fences protecting two Spanish cities on Morocco’s north coast, which many migrants have injured themselves on, trying to get up and over, into Europe. Europe’s immigration policy will likely be a topic at the European Union Summit at the end of June.
The EU needs a short, medium-term and long-term strategy on migration: immediately stop departures from Africa, in parallel stabilise Libya and promote more investment in the African economy. #MigrationEU pic.twitter.com/ORlTGyDGL6
— Antonio Tajani (@EP_President) June 17, 2018