The Latest: Albania rescues 36 Afghans in Aegean
MADRID (AP) — The Latest on the European migrant crisis (all times local):
Albania’s Defense Ministry says its ship in the Aegean Sea has rescued 36 Afghans trying to cross into Greece.
Defense Minister Olta Xhacka tweeted Wednesday that 19 Afghan children, eight women and nine men were rescued by the ship Oriku in cooperation with Frontex, the European Union’s border control force. She says they have been handed over to local authorities.
Xhacka did not say exactly where the migrants were found.
Albania, a NATO member since 2009, is part of the western military alliance’s maritime mission in the Aegean Sea.
The European Union says it stands ready to supervise the relocation of more than 80 people evacuated from a migrant rescue ship in Italy.
European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said Wednesday that “we’re now ready to start coordinating the process of relocation and to provide operational support to the Italian authorities.”
Working alongside their Italian counterparts, the EU’s border and asylum agencies will pre-screen 83 people to begin establishing whether they are eligible for international protection.
The migrants had been aboard the Spanish-flagged charity ship Open Arms since they were plucked from the Mediterranean almost three weeks ago, but were blocked from disembarking by Italian authorities.
Spain, Portugal, Germany, France and Luxembourg will be sharing the migrants. Romania had offered to take some, but its help is not currently needed.
Doctors Without Borders is calling on Europe to urgently find a solution to the repeated stand-offs barring humanitarian rescue ships carrying migrants from the nearest safe ports.
The non-governmental organization on Wednesday welcomed the arrival of Open Arms with more than 80 migrants in Lampedusa — but said that the ship it operates with, the SOS Mediterranee, remains blocked at sea with 356 “vulnerable men, women and children.”
The Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking, which is operated by two French humanitarian groups, completed four rescues from Aug. 9-12, and has been on standby in international waters about 32 nautical miles from European shores between Malta and the Italian island of Linosa since Aug. 15.
SOS Mediteranee head of mission, Nick Romaniuk, told Italian daily La Repubblica that the situation on board remained under control, “but we cannot resist forever.”
Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo says a navy ship will stay close to an Italian island in case a group of migrants disembarked there need to be transported to Spain in coming days.
More than 80 people were evacuated from the Open Arms aid ship Tuesday after being blocked for 19 days from entering Lampedusa by the country’s anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
Minutes before a prosecutor ordered the seizure of the ship, Spain had dispatched the ship Audaz to accompany the Open Arms to a Spanish port.
The Audaz is currently conducting drills and ready to transport an undisclosed number of migrants that Spain had promised to take in as part of a distribution agreement with five more European countries, Calvo told Cadena SER radio Wednesday.