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Rescue ship docks in Spain carrying hundreds of migrants

20 June 2018

June 12, 2018: The migrants were transferred from the Aquarius ship to Italian Coast Guard boats.

Shouts and singing erupted on the ship as the 106 migrants on board saw Valencia on the horizon, Spanish journalist Gabriela Sanchez tweeted.

Spain subsequently offered to take the Aquarius and it is expected at the port of Valencia on Sunday.

Men, women and children who spent nine days on the Aquarius, after their rescue off the Libyan coast, cheered as they approached Valencia, where they were met by officials in white protective suits and masks, before police processed their information.

On the rescue ship Aquarius, women cradle babies, kids play games and people sleep - waiting for their ship to reach land.

They come from 26 countries, mainly from Africa but also Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, MSF said.

Instead, it insisted that Malta should take in the migrants, to which Prime Minister Joseph Muscat insisted that the country is in line with its worldwide obligations that state any rescued people should be taken to the closest, safest port of call.

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Valencia City Council said on Saturday it was expecting the ship to arrive in the next few hours.

"Anything less than that is a betrayal (of) Europe itself".

Joan Ribo, the mayor of Valencia, said Italy's refusal to accept the Aquarius was inhuman.

The migrants, a lot of them from Africa, were welcomed by a team of more than 2,000 people, including 470 translators and 1,000 Red Cross volunteers who distributed basic items such as blankets, clothes and hygiene kits.

While there is a sense of relief for those who were rescued by the ships, David Noguera, head of Doctors Without Borders in Spain, said he's anxious that other European nations will close themselves off to future rescued migrants.

Italy's new populist government is criticizing aid groups that rescue migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, declaring two German rescue boats can't dock in Italian ports even though the groups operate at sea and don't bring migrants ashore.

Jose Luis Abalos says "Spain will act with sensitivity and at the same time within the law, and with a message to Europe that it doesn't have an immigration policy up to the challenge at hand".

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Doctors Without Borders President David Noguera called on European countries Saturday to adopt a new migration policy to prevent another crisis like the one in the Mediterranean Sea.

They have either completely opposed or resisted quotas that European Union member countries endorsed in 2015, at the peak of the migration crisis, when more than 1.26 million people applied for asylum in the bloc. "But now we must collectively reflect on the reasons for people fleeing across the Mediterranean".

Spanish authorities have said they will examine case by case if the migrants qualify for asylum according to the country's regulations.

The ship's predicament gave Italy's new government the chance to assert its anti-immigrant credentials, and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, in office for just over a week, took the opportunity to underline a more liberal stance.

Italy's transport minister says members of the country's coast guard are rescuing some 500 migrants who set off from Libya aboard four different boats.

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini arrives for gala dinner at the Quirinal palace in Rome, Italy, June 1, 2018.

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Rescue ship docks in Spain carrying hundreds of migrants