CATANIA, Sicily — The Latest on migrants in Europe (all times local):
French President Emmanuel Macron has criticized what he called Italy’s cynicism and irresponsibility in turning away a ship stuck off the country’s shores with 629 migrants on board.
Government spokesman Benjamin Grivaux reported Macron’s comments in Tuesday’s weekly Cabinet meeting.
“If any ship was closer to France’s shores, it could obviously dock on the French coast”, Macron said according to Grivaux.
The rescue ship Aquarius has been stuck since Saturday in international waters off the coast of Italy and Malta, both of which have refused it entry. The migrants are now preparing for a trip to Spain, which has offered the ship safe harbor.
Macron welcomed Spain’s humanitarian gesture, Grivaux said.
Grivaux added that France doesn’t want to “start a precedent” that would allow some European countries to breach international laws and rely on other EU member states.
Hungary’s radically anti-migrant prime minister has praised the decision of the new Italian government to reject a rescue vessel full of migrants from docking at an Italian port.
Viktor Orban said his initial reaction to the news was a sigh of “Finally!” Orban said it had been “so depressing” to hear for years that Europe’s maritime borders cannot be defended that “one practically lost the will to live.”
Speaking Tuesday after a meeting with his Slovak counterpart, Peter Pellegrini, Orban said that Italy’s decision to turn away the Aquarius rescue vessel, with 629 migrants onboard, was a “great moment which may truly bring changes in Europe’s migration policies.”
The migrants are preparing for a trip to Spain, where the country’s new prime minister has offered them safe harbor.
The aid group Doctors Without Borders is urging Italy and Malta to reconsider their decision to refuse to let a rescue vessel carrying hundreds of migrants dock in their ports, saying the migrants are too “exhausted and stressed” for another four days at sea to go to Spain.
The 629 migrants, onboard the rescue vessel Aquarius, are preparing for a trip to Spain, whose new prime minister has offered them safe harbor after Italy and Malta refused them permission to dock in their ports.
The aid groups said Tuesday it is particularly concerned about the condition of patients who had to be resuscitated after rescue, saying they could develop “significant pulmonary issues after swallowing sea water.”
Doctors without Borders, which operates the Aquarius with SOS Mediterranee, said that to continue the sea journey to Valencia, Spain “would mean already exhausted people rescued at sea would have to endure four more days exposed to the elements on the deck, in an overcrowded boat well over maximum capacity.”
The government of Spain’s Valencia region says it is expecting ships carrying 629 migrants who were rejected by Italy and Malta to call “in three or four days” at its port.
The vice president of the regional government, Monica Oltra, was speaking to reporters on Tuesday, after Spain offered to take in the group of migrants, which includes 120 minors and seven pregnant women. The migrants were onboard the Aquarius, a rescue vessel operated by aid group SOS Mediterranee, which has been stuck in the Mediterranean Sea since Saturday.
Oltra says the timing will depend on when they depart, the weather and conditions at sea.
She said the Red Cross was preparing to provide shelter and medical assistance to the migrants on arrival, and that other Spanish regions and cities had offered to provide longer term support.
The new Spanish foreign minister has said that by taking in the migrants aboard a rescue ship refused by Italy and Malta, Spain is looking to push European Union leaders to address the bloc’s migration policies later this month.
“Spain has made a gesture that aims to trigger a European dynamic to stop looking away, allowing one (EU member) to cope with the problem while the rest of us pass the buck,” Borrell told Ser radio late on Monday.
He said the decision to offer a docking port in the eastern city of Valencia had been a personal and direct move by the country’s new prime minister, the Socialist Pedro Sanchez.
Borrell also said that the issue will be taken by Spain to the council of EU heads of state or government on June 28-29.
Aid group SOS Mediterranee Sea says it is transferring some of the 629 migrants rescued at sea to Italian ships to continue to the journey to Spain where the prime minister has offered safe harbor.
The Aquarius, the rescue ship operated by SOS Mediterranee, has been stuck at sea 35 nautical miles off the coast of Sicily since Saturday when Italy refused permission to dock and demanded Malta do so. Malta refused.
SOS Mediterranee spokeswoman Mathilde Auvillain said Tuesday that some passengers were being transferred before the journey “for security reasons” because of deteriorating weather conditions on the voyage to Valencia, Spain. Many passengers had been on decks and are being moved to ships of the Italian Navy and Coast Guard.
This version corrects that Sanchez is Spain’s new prime minister, not president.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.