VALENCIA, Spain (Reuters) – A naval convoy transporting 629 rescued migrants will arrive in Spain's Spanish port on Sunday, ending its grueling nine days at sea, but leaving a fierce debate in Europe about how to manage immigration
Spain rushed to help the group of Sub-Saharan Africans aboard the Aquarium last week, offering a charity boat to a berth 700 nautical miles after Italy and Malta refused to let it dock.
After the new Italian government used the boat to assert its anti-immigrant credentials, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, in office for just over a week, took the opportunity to underline a more liberal stance.
But the difficult situation of Aquarius has highlighted the failure of the European Union to agree how to manage a large number of people fleeing poverty and conflict.
] "People come to Europe in search of European values, solidarity and support," Red Cross Secretary General Elhadj As Sy said at a press conference in Valencia on Saturday.
"Anything less than that is a betrayal (of) Europe itself."
A team of 2,320 people, including volunteers, translators, police and health officials, wait for the Aquarium and two Italian ships that shared passengers to make the trip safer.
As soon as the boats arrive, the seven pregnant women on board will be taken immediately to the land for check-ups, and all on board, including 123 children, will receive psychological attention, officials of the Spanish Red Cross said.
Anti-immigrant sentiment has increased in Italy when more than 600,000 people have reached its shores in the last five years, helping to push the Nationalist League into a coalition government.
Many less come to Spain, but the numbers are increasing rapidly.
Most Spaniards support the idea of hosting and helping to integrate refugees, pollsters say, which allows Sanchez, a socialist, to offer migrant-friendly policies to voters who feel that previous governments have not They did enough.
France, which reprimanded Italy for rejecting the Aquarius, has offered to welcome all passengers who qualify for asylum and want to go there.
Written by Isla Binnie; Edition by Catherine Evans