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Spain to take in 629 migrants stranded at sea after Italy refuses

Spain to take in 629 migrants stranded at sea after Italy refuses

Spain has agreed to take in 629 migrants stranded on a rescue boat in the Mediterranean Sea after Italy’s new government denied the vessel access to its ports in a bid to force a European reckoning over the migration situation. The move by Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s new socialist prime minister, to allow the migrants to disembark in Valencia looked set to defuse a humanitarian emergency. The UN refugee agency had warned that people on board were “in distress” and “running out of provisions”. The Aquarius had been sailing north towards Italy on Sunday when Matteo Salvini, the interior minister and leader of the far-right League, demanded that nearby Malta allow the migrants to land there instead. Maltese officials refused, leaving the migrants in limbo on board the vessel, which is operated by SOS Méditerranée, a French NGO. The passengers included more than 100 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women. Mr Salvini’s decision to stop the Aquarius from docking — which was quickly followed by a similar warning on Monday to the Sea Watch 3, another rescue boat in the Mediterranean — is the first tangible sign of the harsher line on migration adopted by Italy’s new government.