Almost 400 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean on Tuesday as they attempted to make the crossing from Morocco to Spain, Spanish rescue services said.
While the overall numbers of migrants reaching Europe by sea is down from the peak in 2015, Spain has seen a steady increase in sea arrivals that began more than a year ago and has surged in recent months.
On Tuesday 458 people, including 13 children, were rescued from nine boats in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Alboran Sea, the two principal sea crossings to Spain, the Spanish coastguard said on Twitter.
Spain has overtaken Italy as a destination for migration after a crackdown by Libyan authorities made it more difficult for migrants to reach Italian shores.
Close to 23,000 people have arrived by sea in Spain so far this year, with 307 dying in the attempt, according to the International Organization for Migration – more than during all of last year.
Meanwhile, an NGO ship which rescued 87 migrants off Libya has been given the green light to dock in the southern Spanish port of Algeciras on Thursday, the charity said, after Italy refused them entry.
The migrants, nearly all from Sudan including Darfur, had spent 50 hours at sea on board an inflatable boat, without drinking water, and many suffered burns from a mixture of fuel and salt water before they were rescued on August 2.
After patrolling the waters off Libya for days looking for a port that would accept it, the ship belonging to the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms was finally allowed to come dock in Spain.
It will arrive on Thursday morning in Algeciras, across the bay from Gibraltar, an NGO spokeswoman said.
Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini had tweeted “anywhere but not Italy” when the ship was looking for a port, repeating the new government’s hardline policy closing the country to migrant rescue ships.
Spain once again stepped in even as it has overtaken Italy as the main destination for migrants this year due to a crackdown by Libyan authorities and Rome’s hardline approach.
More than 23,700 people have arrived in Spain by sea so far this year with 307 dying in the attempt, according to the International Organisation for Migration – more than during all of last year.
In June, the French NGO Aquarius ship, which had picked up 630 stranded migrants, was allowed to dock in Spain’s eastern port of Valencia after Italy and Malta refused access, precipitating a European political crisis.
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