The Latest: Spain collects migrants rescued by blocked ship
MILAN (AP) — The Latest on the influx of migrants into Europe (all times local):
Authorities in Spain say a Spanish navy ship has taken on board 15 migrants it went to collect from Italy as part of an agreement about what to do with more than 80 people rescued in the Mediterranean Sea.
A statement from the Spanish caretaker prime minister’s office Tuesday says the Audaz is returning to Cadiz in southern Spain with the adult migrants from seven African countries.
They were rescued by the Open Arms, a ship run by a Spanish aid group.
The migrants were blocked from disembarking by Italian authorities in another spat between European Union countries over how to handle their plight.
A Sicilian prosecutor last week ordered the evacuation of those aboard the rescue ship after 19 days at sea amid worsening conditions.
Spain, Portugal, Germany, France and Luxembourg will be sharing the migrants under an EU deal.
Two humanitarian groups that have been flying search-and-rescue missions for migrants out of the Italian island of Lampedusa say their planes have been grounded by Italy’s civil aviation authority.
The German group Sea-Watch and the French non-governmental organization Pilotes Volontaires confirmed Tuesday that their flights have been grounded. Sea-Watch spokesman Ruben Neugebauer called the grounding political, saying that the group’s plan, dubbed Moonbird, is in compliance with Italian and national norms.
Neugebauer said it is important to have the planes in the air because they document human rights violations by ships that do not respond to rescue calls.
Italy’s civil aviation authority, ENAC, confirmed the groundings, saying the aircraft are approved for recreational and not professional use. Malta closed its airspace to Moonbird last year.
Italy’s hard-line interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has banned a German humanitarian ship carrying migrants rescued off Libya from entering Italian territorial waters.
Decrees such as the one signed Tuesday have become routine in Salvini’s bid to prevent humanitarian rescue ships from bringing migrants to Italy.
This one targets a vessel operated by the German group Lifeline that picked up about 100 people Monday in a rubber lifeboat some 50 kilometers (31 miles) off the Libyan coast. Lifeline has urged the German government to help identify a safe harbor.
While Italy and Malta are the closest European ports, Italy has constructed a policy to exclude humanitarian rescue ships. Malta generally has accepted migrants rescued in its area of responsibility. The positions have led to numerous standoffs.