Migrants brought to Malta from Spanish boat after long standoff

In this file photo taken on August 15, 2018 crew members stand aboard the Aquarius rescue ship as it arrive at Bolier Wharf in Senglea, Malta. (AFP)
Updated 02 December 2018
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Migrants brought to Malta from Spanish boat after long standoff

  • The vessel was initially refused entry by Italy, Malta and Spain
  • The fishing boat, Santa Madre de Loreto, rescued 12 migrants in international waters off the coast of Libya 10 days ago

VALLETTA: Eleven migrants who were stranded on a Spanish fishing boat for more than a week after being rescued off Libya were brought to Malta on Sunday, ending an international stand-off, but Valletta said they would later be taken to Spain.
The vessel was initially refused entry by Italy, Malta and Spain.
The fishing boat, Santa Madre de Loreto, rescued 12 migrants in international waters off the coast of Libya 10 days ago. Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, which has been assisting the boat and migrants aboard, said it would not have been safe if they were returned to Libya.
On Sunday, the migrants were transferred from the Nuestra Madre de Loreto to a Maltese patrol boat, and arrived in Valletta harbor at 1 p.m. (1200 GMT), Maltese government spokesman Kurt Farrugia said.
However, Farrugia told Reuters that Malta had agreed with Madrid that this was only a temporary solution dictated by “humanitarian reasons,” and they would be taken to Spain in due course.
“Malta had no obligation to take them because they were not picked up in Maltese waters and Malta was not the closest port,” Farrugia said.
A young man among the group was flown to Malta by helicopter on Friday after he fell unconscious due to exhaustion.
The remaining migrants, including two minors, are weak after their ordeal in cramped conditions at sea, said the charity group United4Med.
After offering to take more than 600 migrants rejected by Italy and Malta over the summer, Madrid said that rather than making the long journey to Spain, the boat should head to the nearest safe port.
In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists go to the polls on Sunday in a key regional election in Andalusia, the main entry point for migrants making the dangerous sea crossing to Spain.
Immigration has been a major focus of the campaign, while a surging far right is predicted to win its first seats since the 1970s.
“From the beginning, the government has worked to ensure the boat, which is in international waters, goes to a safe and nearby port,” Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said in a statement on Sunday.
Madrid’s conduct was criticized by Proactiva Open Arms.
“The government now says #Santa Madre de Loreto should head to Malta. Late, wrong and unscrupulous,” the group’s founder Oscar Camps wrote on Twitter on Sunday morning.
“Playing with the security of people who have gone 10 days without news, amid a rough storm, and with one person rescued by helicopter and a high risk for the whole crew,” Camps said.


At least 11 dead in Taliban attack on Afghan police HQ

Updated 11 min 33 sec ago
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At least 11 dead in Taliban attack on Afghan police HQ

  • The assault comes amid a series of peace talks between Washington and the Taliban that both sides say are making progress
  • 11 people had been killed, including nine civilians and two police officers

KANDAHAR: At least 11 people were killed and scores more wounded Thursday when the Taliban attacked a police headquarters in the southern city of Kandahar, officials and the insurgents said.
The assault comes amid a series of peace talks between Washington and the Taliban that both sides say are making progress, but which so far have yielded no reduction in violence in the gruelling Afghan conflict.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said the afternoon attack in Afghanistan’s second-largest city started with a car bomb, then saw gunmen storm the police compound.
“A number of mujahideen equipped with heavy and small arms breached the headquarters and launched their operations inside,” he said.
Baheer Ahmadi, the Kandahar governor’s spokesman, said in a statement that 11 people had been killed, including nine civilians and two police officers, while another 80 — including women and children — were wounded.
He earlier had given a toll of 12 dead.
Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said eight attackers were involved. Two blew themselves up, while the remaining six were “cornered in a building.”
Hayatullah Hayat, the provincial governor for Kandahar, said Afghan security forces had launched a “clean-up operation” to see if any attackers were remaining.
“The fighting is over now. Some vehicles were burnt. Now the Afghan army and US helicopters are hovering in the area,” police chief Tadin Khan told AFP.
Pictures on social media showed a huge plume of smoke rising over Kandahar, and Hayat said about six trucks carrying commercial goods had burnt.
The assault comes just one day after two Afghan soldiers — who were really Taliban operatives — fatally shot an Afghan colonel in Ghazni province.