About Half of Aquarius Migrants Want into France

The rescue ship Aquarius was finally accepted by Spain, but about half of its passengers apparently want to seek asylum in France.

The 630 migrants, most of whom are from Africa, were rescued between Italy and Malta a few weeks ago. Both countries refused to accept them, until the new government in Spain allowed them to dock in Valencia on Sunday, June 17.

According to authorities in Valencia, the passengers include 450 men and 80 women (including seven pregnant ones), with 89 minors over the age of 13 and 11 who are younger.

In a statement, the Spanish government explained that slightly less than half of the migrants want to settle in France, and that the French government has agreed to take in at least some of them.

"As soon as the Spanish authorities have informed us of the number of people concerned, a team from Ofpra will go on site to conduct the interviews and ensure that people are covered by the right to asylum," said Pascal Brice. (Ofpra is the French office in charge of protecting refugees, of which Brice is director-general.)

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux says that the applications will be examined on a case-by-case basis.

France's president, Emmanuel Macron, criticized Italy's new government for not allowing the ship to dock, saying that it demonstrated "irresponsibility." Nevertheless, he and the Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, have recently met in Paris and say that they are over that disagreement.

It should be noted that France also refused the Aquarius passage, arguing that under international law it had to go to the nearest port. (Conte maintained that that was in Malta.) In fact, the French-controlled island of Corsica offered to welcome it, only for the national government to override the decision.

For what it is worth, an OpinionWay poll shows that 56 percent of French citizens support the government's initial refusal to let the Aquarius dock, with 42 percent saying that it was the wrong decision.

Like most European countries, France has a large immigrant population (mostly from Africa and the Middle East) that is causing increasing difficulties for its government and citizenry. As such, Macron is under pressure to stanch the flow of new arrivals.

At his meeting with Conte, the two discussed moves that Europe can take to prevent illegal immigration and pre-approve legitimate asylum-seekers before they leave their homelands.

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