Rescue Ships Dock in Spain as Migrant Debate Roils Europe

(From AP News)

Ships in the Aquarius aid convoy docked Sunday at the Spanish port of Valencia, ending a weeklong ordeal for hundreds of people who were rescued from the perilous Mediterranean only to become the latest pawn in Europe’s battle over immigration.

The Italian coast guard vessel Dattilo was the first of the three boats bearing the 630 migrants to touch land just before 7 a.m. Sunday. The 270 migrants on board soon began to disembark after medical staff had made a preliminary inspection.

The rescue ship Aquarius came in four hours later with another 106 migrants. Aid workers awaiting their arrival clapped and cheered as the first migrants walked down the gangway. Another Italian navy ship, the Orione, came in shortly after 1 p.m.

The Aquarius, operated by the aid groups SOS Mediterranee Sea and Doctors Without Borders, was stuck off the coast of Sicily on June 9 when Italy refused it permission to dock and demanded that Malta do so. Malta also refused.

After days of bickering and food and water running low on the ship, Spain stepped in and granted the rescue boat entry. The 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) journey across the Mediterranean from Sicily to Valencia took nearly a week.

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