MADRID: Nearly 300 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa were rescued at sea overnight between Spain and Morocco, while a woman was found dead on one of the four boats, Spain’s maritime rescue service said on Wednesday.
The service saved 220 people, including 57 women and four minors, in the Alboran Sea, the stretch of the western Mediterranean between the two countries, a spokeswoman said.
The woman’s body was found aboard one of the boats, she added. The cause of her death is unknown, she said.
Moroccan authorities meanwhile rescued another 57 migrants from another boat in the Alboran Sea, the spokeswoman said, without detailing their ages or gender.
Around 11,000 migrants have arrived in Spain by sea so far this year, and 203 have died attempting the crossing from North Africa, according to the latest figures from the International Organisation for Migration, issued on Wednesday.
Over the same period in the Mediterranean as a whole, 682 have died or are missing attempting the crossing, while 31,600 migrants have made it to Europe, according to the IOM.
Spain’s interior ministry says the number of migrant arrivals to the country has fallen by 30 percent so far this year compared with the same period in 2018.European interior ministers headed for emergency talks in Helsinki on Wednesday in a bid to break the cycle of crises that erupt after each Mediterranean migrant rescue.
EU officials said they will debate a proposal to form a group of countries willing to systematically admit migrants whenever they disembark from rescue ships between now and October.
Italy’s populist government has refused to allow ships carrying people saved from the sea to dock as long as too few EU countries promise to regularly admit such migrants.
EU officials said so far at least six of the 28 EU countries including France and Germany are willing to join the scheme.
But they concede this number may not be enough to persuade Italy to allow rescue ships to dock in its ports.
The proposal to be debated at dinner in the Finnish capital calls for “a more predictable and efficient temporary solidarity mechanism,” according to a draft.
It was unclear whether Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini would join the talks, or how many others would attend on the eve of their regular EU meeting on Thursday.
The scheme is “to ensure the swift and dignified disembarkation of migrants rescued at sea by private vessels in the closest safe harbour,” the draft added.
Participating countries will contribute through October “to the reception of asylum-seekers rescued at sea by private vessels in the Central Mediterranean.” It said the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, will coordinate to ensure rescued migrants disembark in harbours of EU countries on the central Mediterranean route, which include Italy and Malta.
The countries will “ensure the relocation of those applying for international protection to our national territories is achieved as fast as possible,” according to the draft.
Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2019