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The New Arab

Spain offers healthcare to stranded migrants in Italy spat

More than 600 rescued migrants are on board the Aquarius [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 June, 2018

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Spain has announced it will extend public healthcare to migrants as Italy finds itself under the spotlight for its decision to refuse entry to the migrants stranded at sea.
The Spanish government announced on Friday it will pass a decree to extend public healthcare to foreigners without residence permits as part of new migration policies, in a clear snub to Italy which refused entry to a migrant rescue ship.

The government’s spokesperson, Isabel Celaa, announced a series of measures that will "put people's rights first" and distance the new centre-left cabinet from the previous conservative administration.

Celaa says the government will assess through technical reports how to remove, "without losing any security", the barbed wire capping the fences of Ceuta and Melilla, the two Spanish enclaves in northern Africa.

Celaa, also minister of education, said the new measures should not encourage more arrivals, because migrants are on the move anyway to escape poverty and violence.

The fate of 629 migrants stranded at sea for days has sparked bitter recriminations after their rescue ship was turned away from ports in Italy and Malta.

Italy has defended its decision to refuse the Aquarius and its passengers entry, and the migrants remained stranded until Spain offered to take it in.

Tensions have flared between France and Italy after Paris' public criticism that Italy's decision to refuse entry to the migrant rescue ship Aquarius had been "cynical" and irresponsible.

Italy summoned the French ambassador to protest and demanded an official apology.

Pope Francis similarly critiqued Italy's new migration policies, saying that the Gospel teaches that it's wrong to leave migrants "at the mercy of the waves".

The comments which came during an audience with Italian workers was the second time he had alluded to the plight of refugees after Italy's decision to refuse entry to the rescue boat.

The focal point for Mediterranean migration in recent years has been Italy, where more than 700,000 migrants have arrived since 2013.

More than 20,000 migrants have disappeared or died trying to cross the Mediterranean since 2014. Increasingly tight security along Europe's eastern borders has forced migrants to choose the more perilous sea journeys.

Libya has become a key transit point for sub-Saharan African migrants seeking to embark on dangerous journeys to Europe.

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