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(AP) Spain dismisses migrant minors' asylum request

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Spain dismisses migrant minors' asylum request
Associated Press

ROME (August 14, 2019) — A senior Spanish official says an asylum request on behalf of 31 migrant minors made by the captain of an aid group's ship that rescued them at sea carries no legal weight.

The minors, many from Eritrea, are among 151 people on the Open Arms rescue ship which is still seeking permission to disembark in a European port 13 days after it first rescued a group of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Spanish caretaker government's Public Works Minister, Jose Abalos, says Tuesday that Captain Marc Reig does not have the legal authority to request asylum for the minors.

Reig sent a letter Monday to the Spanish embassy in nearby Malta asking Madrid to grant the minors asylum.

There are actually more than 500 people who have been rescued in the Mediterranean but who remain stranded at sea as countries bicker over who should take them.

The migrants are aboard two ships chartered by humanitarian aid groups, but Italy's government is denying them access to its ports.

The UNHCR says nearly 600 people have died or gone missing in waters between Libya and Italy this year.

The European Commission says it's urging member countries to take action and is offering support, but has no power to intervene.

A spokeswoman says "there's nothing more we can do.


-Spain dismisses migrant minors' asylum request

Why is Spain ignoring calls to take in child refugees?
In this file photo a member of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms carries a dead child out of the sea and onto a zodiac rescue boat in the Mediterranean sea about 85 miles of the Libyan coast.

Why is Spain ignoring calls to take in child refugees?

Spain on Tuesday refused to consider a request from a Spanish rescue boat that it grant asylum to 31 minors stuck aboard the ship, arguing the demand was not valid.

The captain of the Open Arms, Marc Reig, sent a letter on Monday to  Spain's embassy in Malta asking that Madrid grant asylum to the minors, saying they all "fulfill the conditions for recognition as refugees".

Another 150 migrants who were plucked from several boats in the Mediterranean are on board the Open Arms, off the coast of Italy's southern Lampedusa island.

Both Malta and Italy have refused permission for the boat to dock and unload all the migrants.

Asked if Madrid would agree to Reig's request, Public Works Minister Jose Luis Abalos told private television Telecinco the Open Arms captain did not have the "legal competence or authority" to demand asylum for the minors.   

Under Spanish law asylum applications must be lodged in person or by a legally accredited representative.

The minister also recalled that under international agreements, rescued migrants should be taken to the closest available port which in the case of the Open Arms is in Italy.

Abalos defended Spain's record in rescuing migrants at sea, saying the coast guard had saved 50,000 migrants last year, echoing recent comments made by other Spanish ministers.

"It is not fair to question the government of Spain, or the reputation of the government of Spain, when it comes to the issue of rescues," he added.   

Proactiva Open Arms, which operates the Open Arms rescue ship, has called for European countries to agree to take in migrants it has picked up.   

Italy's far-right Interior Minister  Matteo Salvini has insisted since coming to power last year that rescued migrants can land in Italy only if an agreement is already in place with other European countries to look after them.

Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem on Monday called on Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to take a leadership role within the European Union for the distribution of migrants Open Arms has rescued, joining other celebrities including Antonio Banderas and Richard Gere who have urged governments to act.

"We think that Spain is the ideal and right country to do so since it's the country of origin of the NGO Open Arms, which is doing a necessary and extraordinary job for human dignity and to save the lives of people who are fleeing from situations that we can't even begin to imagine," Bardem said in a video posted on Twitter.


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