Spain urges EU help with migrants as more rescued at sea

A crew member of the ‘Ocean Viking’ rescue ship stands ready to carry an operation to rescue migrants from an inflatable dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea. (AFP)
Updated 29 August 2019

Spain urges EU help with migrants as more rescued at sea

  • Spain has borne the brunt of EU migrant arrivals in recent years

MADRID: Spain’s maritime rescue service said on Thursday it had rescued 208 migrants from the Mediterranean Sea in 24 hours, as a senior Spanish official renewed a plea for EU countries to set aside their differences on the divisive migration issue.

Carmen Calvo, the government’s deputy prime minister, told the Spanish Parliament that EU countries with no maritime border must share the burden of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to the continent from North Africa.

She said the EU needs to agree on “a formula for safe arrivals at ports and co-responsibility of (EU) countries. ”

Similar pleas have been made in recent years, but to little effect.

Calvo was answering questions about a political and humanitarian stalemate earlier this month when Italian authorities refused to allow more than 80 migrants to disembark from a rescue ship run by a Spanish aid group.

The migrants spent 19 days on board the Open Arms ship amid worsening conditions as EU countries argued over how to handle their plight. Spain, Portugal, Germany, France and Luxembourg will be sharing out the migrants under an EU deal to end the standoff.

The migrant issue has dogged EU politics for years, and has led to the rise of anti-immigrant political groups. Spain has borne the brunt of EU migrant arrivals in recent years.

The Spanish maritime rescue service said the migrants it saved were in three boats and picked up in the so-called Alboran Sea, an area east of the Strait of Gibraltar and one of the most common routes for crossing to Europe from North Africa.

The migrants were taken to temporary handling facilities in Spain.

Spain and the EU have increased police cooperation with, and funding for, Moroccan authorities in an effort to stem the flow, with statistics indicating the effort is working.

Spain’s Interior Ministry says that by mid-August this year the number of migrants arriving by sea was down 42.5 percent compared to the same period last year — just under 14,600 compared with more than 25,300 in 2018.

The number of boats making the crossing fell from 1,054 to 542 over the same period.


US consular staff in Turkey quizzed over video that ‘mocked Islam’

Updated 20 November 2019

US consular staff in Turkey quizzed over video that ‘mocked Islam’

  • The video, which spread online, showed a women mocking “Zamzam” water
  • The prosecutor said those detained were two employees from the consulate aged 30 and 38

ISTANBUL: Turkish police questioned two local staffers from a US consulate in Turkey Wednesday over a Halloween party video accused of “denigrating religious values,” news agency DHA reported.
The pair, who work at the consulate in the southern city of Adana, were taken in for questioning and later released, the local prosecutor told DHA.
It followed a video, which spread online, showing a women mocking “Zamzam” water, which is considered holy because it is drawn from a well in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
A man, dressed as a pious Muslim, advises her to drink a cocktail.
The prosecutor said those detained were two employees from the consulate aged 30 and 38.
A number of issues have strained relations between Ankara and Washington, including Turkey’s offensive last month against Kurdish militants in Syria, who were a close ally of the US against the Daesh group.
There was also a row over the arrest of several Turks working for US diplomatic outposts following the attempted coup of 2016.
One employee, Metin Topuz from the Istanbul consulate, is still in jail pending his trial on espionage charges.
In January, a staffer at the Adana consulate, Hamza Ulucay, was freed after nearly two years in pre-trial detention over alleged links to the Gulenist movement that Turkey blames for the attempted coup.