The Latest: Spain reports 479 migrants rescued over weekend
BERLIN (AP) — The Latest on migration into Europe (all times local):
Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service says at least 479 people, including more than 100 children, were rescued over the weekend while attempting to cross a narrow stretch of the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa.
The service said 330 migrants were rescued on Saturday, most of them in the Strait of Gibraltar area and some further east in a part of the Mediterranean known as the Alboran Sea.
They included about 100 minors who were picked up by a Spanish Civil Guard vessel and a Moroccan man who was found drifting on an inflated inner tube from a truck tire.
The rescue service says another 149 people were brought ashore on Sunday.
The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration said on July 11 that more than 16,900 migrants had arrived in Spain so far this year, a figure close to the number of arrivals in Italy.
Nearly 2,900 more made it into Spanish territory by crossing into the country’s two enclaves in northern Africa.
The Spanish government says Spain and Portugal gave agreed to take in 100 of the 450 migrants who are on two military ships in a holding pattern off Sicily.
A government statement said the offer extended Sunday was conditioned on Italy allowing all of the passengers to get off in one of its ports and accepting a share of them as asylum-seekers.
Spain says the decision is designed to demonstrate the will to provide a European solution to mass migration across the Mediterranean Sea.
The statement said officials in Spain, Portugal and also France, which offered Saturday to receive 50 of the migrants, would assess the personal situations of each person they accept.
The migrants were on a fishing boat off tiny Linosa Island when a vessel for European border agency Frontex and an Italian border police boat took them aboard.
A second group of migrants has departed Malta as part of a nine-nation deal that enabled a private rescue ship to dock in the tiny European Union island nation.
Fifteen migrants departed on Sunday for Luxembourg. They were among 234 migrants aboard the MV Lifeline when the boat was allowed to enter a Maltese port on June 27 after a standoff between Malta and Italy.
Eight nations plus Malta each offered to host some of the rescued passengers. France took in 52 last week.
Malta’s government said the 15 who left were assessed by Luxembourg immigration authorities before departure.
Italy and Malta have cracked down on private aid groups’ rescue boats that in recent years pulled tens of thousands of migrants from human traffickers’ unseaworthy boats or the Mediterranean Sea.
MV Lifeline’s German captain is under investigation for allegedly entering Maltese waters without authorization.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis says the Czech Republic is unwilling to take any of the 450 asylum-seekers who were rescued from a fishing boat in the Mediterranean Sea and are awaiting clearance to land in Europe.
Italy has refused to let two military ships that picked up the migrants dock until other European Union nations agree to share the burden of caring for people who are rescued while trying to cross the Mediterranean.
Babis said Sunday that accepting some of the rescued passengers would be “a road to hell” and only motivate human smugglers to try to bring more people on the perilous sea journey.
The Czech prime minister tweeted: “Our country won’t take any migrants.”
Babis says ships carrying migrants should be denied entry.
He said: “We have to help the migrants in their own countries, outside the European Union.”
Germany’s foreign minister says the world’s failure to agree on taking in Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in 1938 resulted in a refugee treaty after World War II that countries are still bound by today.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tweeted Sunday that the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention “was the response to this failure and remains the binding measure of our humanity.”
Maas offered the tweet against the backdrop of a debate over Europe’s response to mass migration from Africa and the Mideast.
His comment came exactly 80 years after an international conference in Evian, France, ended without firm commitments from most of the 32 countries involved to accept more refugees.
Many Jews later killed in the Holocaust had tried to emigrate to countries such as the United States but were rejected.
According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Nazi Germany gloated that other countries criticized its treatment of Jews but wouldn’t accept them either.
Germany’s interior ministry says an agreement has been reached for both the federal and Bavarian state police to patrol the border, checking for migrants entering the country.
In a statement Sunday, the ministry said Bavarian police will be able to conduct checks along the country’s southern border with Austria “at the request or with the consent of federal police.”
Bavaria’s conservative-led state government has been pressing for tighter border controls ahead of a regional election this fall in which the issue of migration is expected to play a prominent role. But questions had been raised about the legality of state police performing a task normally reserved for federal police.
The number of people crossing the German-Austrian border illegally has dropped sharply since a dramatic influx of migrants in 2015.
Germany says it will take 50 of the 450 migrants rescued from a fishing boat in the Mediterranean Sea that’s been at the center of a squabble between Italy and Malta.
In a statement Sunday, the German government said “with a view to the ongoing talks about greater bilateral cooperation on asylum, Germany is prepared to take in 50 people in this case.”
France and Malta have also agreed to take in about 100 migrants from the ship.
Italy put out a call for help to other European Union countries, saying it wants them to share the burden of taking in migrants coming across the Mediterranean.
According to EU figures, Germany saw almost 1 million asylum applications in 2016 and 2017; Italy came second with about 250,000.