Portugal has reached an agreement with France and Spain to accept refugees from the rescue ship in the Mediterranean after Italy had said ‘no’ to the vessel. The deal is the second case of a similar type of cooperation between European countries since Italy’s new populist cabinet started refusing to let the vessels dock at their ports with migrants rescued while trying to cross from Libya to Europe. The non-profit organization SOS Méditerranée and Doctors Without Borders, which together operate the migrant rescue ship Aquarius, had called on the French government earlier this week to allow its ships dock in Marseille.
“Portugal has agreed with Spain and France, in the context of the joint response to the flow of migrants seeking to reach Europe through the Mediterranean, to host 10 of the 58 people on the Aquarius vessel,” the Portuguese government commented. The French government initially did not want to allow the ship to dock in Marseille, since it was not the closest port, as European regulations would mandate. Lisbon said that it had offered the vessel to dock citing humanitarian reasons. Thousands of migrants try their luck through the Mediterranean often in unsafe boats in a bid to try to find a better life.
The UN Migration Agency (IOM) estimates that through end of August, around 65,500 migrants and refugees entered Europe. With 42%, Spain was the main recipient of the seaborne arrivals. The country accepts twice the number accepted by Greece and six times the number that Italy accepts. Italy had allowed earlier this year to disembark the rescue ship to some of the most vulnerable migrants but IOM’s Flavio Di Giacomo urged to accept everyone. “Migrants arriving from Libya are often victims of violence, abuses and torture, their vulnerabilities should be timely and properly identified and addressed,” added Federico Soda, Director of IOM’s Coordinating Office for the Mediterranean, and Chief of Mission for Italy and Malta.