Spain to bring back free healthcare for migrants

Map showing the route of the Aquarius

Map showing the route of the Aquarius

The migrants arrived in Spain on Sunday in three vessels, including the rescue ship Aquarius, after being turned away by Italy and Malta last week.

An Italian navy ship, the Orione, came in shortly after 1 p.m with the remaining 250.

Migrants are checked by emergency workers after arriving o the Italian coast guard vessel Dattilo at the eastern port of Valencia, Spain, Sunday, Jun. 17, 2018. Some of the migrants were transferred from the Aquarius to the two Italian boats. 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.

A staff of 2,320, including volunteers, translators, police and health officials are awaiting the Aquarius and two Italian vessels that shared its passengers to make the voyage safer.

The Aquarius completed a 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) journey from Sicily to Valencia, ending a weeklong ordeal for the 630 people rescued from the Mediterranean Sea, only to be rejected by Italy and Malta.

Anti-migrant feeling has surged in Italy as more than 600,000 people have arrived on its shores over the past five years, helping to propel the nationalist League into a coalition government.

At the port, a huge banner was hung up, saying "Welcome home" in various languages.

The majority of the 630 migrants are from Africa, including 450 men and 80 women, of which at least seven are pregnant, according to Valencian authorities.

A total of 144 migrants were taken to hospital for treatment - mainly for scratches and burns - and only six were expected to stay overnight, the regional government of Valencia said in a statement.

Spain eventually stepped in and agreed to receive the refugees as a "political gesture" to "oblige Europe to forge a common policy to a common problem", its Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said.

Spain's new socialist government has pledged free healthcare for the migrants and says it will investigate each asylum case.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, with a more liberal stance, said the country would offer a safe harbor.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has proposed the European Union set up asylum processing centers in Africa to prevent what he calls "voyages of death" across the Mediterranean or migrants falling victims to criminal human traffickers.

Under the EU's asylum laws - now the subject of a major political dispute and under revision - migrants must apply for asylum in the country where they first enter Europe.

Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini warned Saturday that other NGO operated rescue ships would also be banned from docking.

Spain took in the migrants after Italy and Malta refused to.

More than 1,000 migrants tried to jump a high double fence between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta yesterday (1 January) in a violent assault that saw one officer lose an eye, local authorities said.

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