Spain says ‘we can’t be Europe’s sea rescue service’: Second EU stand-off on migrants as Madrid REFUSES to take 230 from NGO boat – forcing Italy to cave in and accept some despite deputy PM’s claim to have halted ‘invasion’
Iain Burns — Daily Mail June 26, 2018
Spain today refused to accept a charity boat carrying 230 migrants, arguing that the country cannot be the ‘sea rescue organisation for all of Europe’ amid growing acrimony within the EU over how to deal with migrants seeking asylum.
The socialist government in Madrid took the hard line during the second international stand-off over a migrant boat in a week – sparked by the populist government in Italy’s refusal to accept any more rescue vessels from Libya.
Tensions within the EU over migration have dramatically increased over the past month, with Angela Merkel facing calls for a crackdown that could bring her government down, and several feuds between France and Italy over the correct course of action.
Today, a deal was struck to let the migrant rescue ship Lifeline dock in Malta after it was turned away from Italy by hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini. But as part of the deal, Italy’s prime minister said he would accept some of the migrants after Spain took in the first boat it turned away last week.
Yet a long-term solution to the problem remains elusive after EU leaders failed to strike a deal on migration in Brussels on Sunday. Even as Italy was accepting some of the migrants, Salvini claimed to have stopped an ‘invasion’ while celebrating his country’s refusal of a second migrant boat.
Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz will assume the EU’s rotating presidency on July 1 and has vowed to make migrants claim asylum before entering the bloc.
Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, said today there must be a ‘common answer’ to the crisis in the Mediterranean from ‘various countries’ in the EU – and did not agree to take in the Mission Lifeline charity ship, which is now heading to Malta.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the ship would go to the tiny island, off which it has been stranded since Thursday, adding that Italy would take in some of the migrants on board.
But the country’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, tweeted that Italy had stopped an ‘invasion’ after forcing two charity boats to dock elsewhere.
He said the ‘illegal ship will finally be seized’ when it arrives in Malta, adding: ‘For women and children truly fleeing war, the ports are open, for all the others, no.’
Salvini has likened the ships run by private aid groups under non-Italian flags to taxi services that are serving migrant smugglers.