Spain accepts rescue boat with stranded migrants in the Mediterranean

Migrants on board the NGO search and rescue vessel Aquarius

On Tuesday, France's president and prime minister took the newly-elected government of Italy to task for refusing to grant a migrant rescue vessel permission to dock.

Macron told a cabinet meeting that under maritime law, "in cases of distress, those with the closest coastline have a responsibility to respond", spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said.

Authorities on the French island of Corsica had also offered to host the rescue ship.

The EU and the United Nations refugee agency had called for a swift end to the standoff involving the Gibraltar-flagged Aquarius, whose passengers include 11 children and seven pregnant women rescued off the coast of Libya at the weekend.

Spain's new Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez agreed to allow the ship to dock in its eastern port of Valencia.

"It is our obligation to help to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and to offer a safe port to these people", his office said in a statement.

They're anxious that because the boat was only built to transport 500 people they might not be able to make it to Spain safely.

"We are talking about people", commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a news conference. "629 immigrants overseas the ship Aquarius headed for Spain, primary goal achieved!"

Migrants are rescued in the Mediterranean sea on June 9, 2018 in a picture released on June 11, 2018 by SOS Mediterranee, before boarding the French NGO's ship Aquarius.

"This plan would mean already exhausted rescued people would endure four more days travel at sea", it added.

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The U.N. refugee agency rejects the argument that boats run by private organizations should stop making such rescues, as they are simply providing an incentive for migrants to make perilous overseas journeys.

Rescue workers onboard the MV Aquarius said it will take four days to reach the port of Valencia and that the boat should be allowed access to the nearest port immediately, which now means in Italian or Maltese territory.

League leader Matteo Salvini was sworn in as interior minister earlier this month and has vowed to clamp down on illegal immigration and change European Union rules.

"From now also Italy begins to say NO to the traffic of human beings, NO to the business of illegal immigration".

File Image of MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship.

The boat rescued the migrants in six different operations off Libyan shores on Saturday morning.

Beau acknowledged that Italy, whose populist new government refused to allow the Aquarius to dock, must not have to "shoulder the burden alone" after taking the brunt of the migrant crisis for years as the main entry point from Africa. Many Spanish regions have offered to provide long-term support to the migrants.

Catalonia's leader Quim Torra said that his region was capable of hosting a total of 1,800 refugees.

"You can't create a precedent that will enable one European country to offload onto other European countries", he continued.

The mayor of Madrid Manuela Carmena said the capital could take in "20 families up to a maximum of 100 people".

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