The Latest: US Navy ship seeks to disembark rescued migrants
PARIS (AP) — The Latest on the flow of migrants into Europe (all times local):
A U.S. Navy vessel is waiting to learn where it can disembark 40 migrants who survived a capsizing off Libya.
Lt. Cmdr. Zachary Harrell, a U.S. 6th Fleet spokesman, said discussions were ongoing Thursday evening, two days after the Trenton rescued the survivors and also spotted 12 “unresponsive” people in the sea. Harrell said Navy rescuers returned to the scene after bringing survivors safely aboard the Trenton, but didn’t find anyone else.
A private rescue boat, Sea Watch-3, said the Trenton asked on Tuesday if it could take aboard the survivors. Sea Watch said it would, but only if the Rome-based rescue coordination center assigned it a safe harbor within navigation range. No such port was assigned to the NGO.
Italy’s new government is demanding other countries take rescued migrants.
Italy’s premier says he has had a “very cordial” chat with the French president and confirmed the two will meet in Paris on Friday despite tensions between the countries over Italy’s handling of the Aquarius migrant rescue ship.
Premier Giuseppe Conte, who heads a new populist coalition, told reporters Thursday that during a phone chat with French President Emmanuel Macron the previous day, the French leader told him he “never offended Italy and its people.”
Italy summoned the French ambassador and reacted angrily after French government spokesman Benjamin Grivaux on Tuesday reported Macron’s comments about the Aquarius situation. Grivaux said Macron criticized what he called Italy’s cynicism and irresponsibility in turning away the ship, stuck off Italy’s shores with hundreds of migrants onboard.
The migrants are now heading to Spain after it offered the ship safe harbor in Valencia.
Conte said he and Macron “agreed on the need to cooperate closely” on migration issues.
The Spanish government says it is expecting ships carrying 630 migrants to arrive in the port of Valencia on Sunday morning after bad weather forced the convoy to take a detour.
Spanish deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo says the arrival of the migrants will be staggered, with a few hours in between the three ships, in order to allow the best medical, psychological and legal assistance by authorities and aid groups.
The migrants are traveling from the central Mediterranean Sea aboard the Aquarius, a rescue vessel operated by aid group SOS Mediterranee, and two boats of the Italian government.
In televised remarks from Valencia, where Calvo was coordinating preparations for the arrival, the deputy prime minister said that authorities will examine case by case if the migrants qualify for asylum according to the country’s regulations.
Calvo said minors and women are a priority; especially those who may have been trafficked or exploited in their attempt to reach Europe.
“We want to offer them a respectful reception, efficient and tranquil after what they have been through,” Calvo said, adding there would be no politicians waiting for them on arrival.
A Hungarian court has sentenced four human traffickers to 25 years in prison each for their roles in the 2015 case in which 71 migrants suffocated to death in the back of a refrigerated truck found on an Austrian highway.
The principal defendant, an Afghan man, and three Bulgarian accomplices were found guilty Thursday in the southern city of Kecskemet of being part of a criminal organization and committing multiple crimes. Ten other defendants, three of them still fugitives, were given shorter prison terms.
Fifty-nine men, eight women and four children from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan suffocated in the back of a refrigerated truck with Hungarian license plates that was abandoned in the emergency lane of the A4 highway near Parndorf, Austria, near the Hungarian border, on Aug. 27, 2015.
Pope Francis is calling for a multinational response to illegal migration because the problem often “exceeds the capacities and resources” of individual countries.
Francis issued a message to a Vatican-Mexican migration conference Thursday. It coincided with growing tensions in Europe over Italy’s refusal to let a migrant rescue ship dock, forcing other European countries to take them in.
Francis didn’t refer to the dispute in his message, but he echoed Italy’s longstanding complaint that it has largely been left alone to cope with the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have landed on its shores in recent years.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said he was certain Italy would do its part but said there must be a “common response to this problem so that Italy isn’t left alone.”
Bad weather has forced a migrant rescue ship in the Mediterranean to take a detour on its journey to Spain.
SOS Mediterranee, the aid group that operates the Aquarius, said Thursday the Italian coast guard boat leading the convoy decided to skirt Sardinia’s east coast after high waves caused exhausted migrants aboard to be seasick.
Spain offered safe harbor after Italy, which wants fellow European Union countries to do more, refused to do so. Malta also refused.
The ship rescued 229 migrants Saturday and took on 400 others saved by Italy’s coast guard, navy and others.
SOS Mediterranee said men who were still on the deck of the Aquarius exposed to the elements were dizzy and vomiting and were taken inside the ship to be treated for seasickness.
Cypriot police say they have arrested the 49-year-old driver of a boat that brought 61 Syrian migrants to the east Mediterranean island nation.
Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said the man suspected of people trafficking will appear in court for a remand hearing Thursday.
He was arrested after trying to evade police by jumping off the boat into the sea off the island’s northwestern coast, where the vessel landed late Wednesday.
The migrants, including seven boys and one woman, are being transferred to a migrant shelter facility outside the capital, Nicosia.
The boat is believed to have set sail from Antalya, Turkey. Each migrant paid $2,000-3,000 for a place on the vessel.
The French president’s office has confirmed the visit to France of Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday.
The Elysee said in a statement Thursday that Macron and Conte spoke by phone on Wednesday amid an escalating clash between the two countries over migration.
Italy demanded an apology after the French president accused the new Italian government of irresponsible behavior for refusing entry to a rescue ship with 629 migrants aboard.
Macron said he “had not made any comment intended to offend Italy and the Italian people,” the statement said.
Both leaders discussed the situation of the Aquarius ship and agreed on France and Italy’s commitment to organize emergency aid under humanitarian rules to assist people in danger, according to the French presidency.