Diplomatic end to migrants' long ordeal at sea

19th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

20 July 2006, MADRID — A diplomatic crisis over a boat load of Africans stranded at sea was solved on Thursday after Spain and Malta agreed a deal to take some to each country.

20 July 2006

MADRID —  A diplomatic crisis over a boat load of Africans stranded at sea was solved on Thursday after Spain and Malta agreed a deal to take some to each country. 

Malta had refused to allow a Spanish trawler which picked up 51 migrants to dock, despite criticism from the United Nations.

The stand-off, which lasted six days, was solved when Spain said it would send a plane to take 15 Eritreans.

The other 30 Eritreans will be sent to Malta, Italy, Andorra and Libya and may obtain asylum.

But five Moroccans and a Pakistani will be sent home eventually. 

The Maltese government insisted the Eritrean men, women and children on board are Spain's or Libya's concern.

It claimed the boat was Spanish and the rescue was made in Libya's search-and-rescue zone.

Before the settlement was reached, two Spanish inspectors, who boarded the boat, confirmed the condition of the immigrants was deteriorating.

A pregnant woman and mother and child were temporarily taken off the trawler to receive medical treatment, but were taken back later.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, has told the Maltese authorities to let the migrants disembark urgently.

But Malta said it could not deal with any more illegal immigrants and needed EU help.

Almost 1,000 immigrants have landed on Malta, which has a total population of 400,000, since January.

Franco Frattini, the European justice and home affairs commissioner, launched plans on Wednesday for a rapid reaction border guard team to countries facing a migration crisis.

Spain has seen 11,000 African immigrants arrive in the Canary Islands this year, provoking a crisis as resources have been stretched.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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