Stranded migrants setting off for Spain

After several days stranded at sea, more than 600 migrants on board the rescue ship Aquarius face another exhausting journey to Spain. Italy and Malta are closer, but have closed their ports, sparking a European diplomatic row.
PHOTO: SOS MEDITERRANEE

Hundreds of migrants stranded on a rescue vessel in the Mediterranean will be taken to Spain with the help of two Italian ships, a charity said yesterday, after deteriorating weather conditions sparked fears for their safety.

The 629 migrants, including pregnant women and scores of children, have been at the heart of a huge row between Malta and Italy since their maritime rescue by the French charity SOS Mediterranee last Saturday.

The United Nations refugee agency told Malta and Italy there was "an urgent humanitarian imperative" to take in the migrants, who were running out of provisions, but the two countries refused to be persuaded.

On Monday, Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez authorised the landing of the ship at Valencia's port to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2018, with the headline 'Stranded migrants setting off for Spain'. Print Edition | Subscribe