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Hundreds of migrants arrive in Spain after Italy, Malta shun them

Migrants who were rescued by Spanish authorizes. Photo: Carlos Gil/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Migrants who were rescued by Spanish authorities. Photo: Carlos Gil/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

More than 600 migrants who were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast arrived in Spain Sunday on three ships — a week after Italy’s new populist, right-wing government and Malta blocked the vessels from docking on their shores.

Why it matters: The refusal by both countries to aid the asylum seekers and Italy's insinuation that the group was an "army of fake refugees" have exacerbated Europe’s latest battle over immigration, triggering strong reactions from humanitarian aid groups and other European countries.

What's happening: The migrants will be granted a special humanitarian permit to stay in Spain for 45 days, while Spanish authorities review their cases to determine who may qualify for asylum status, the AP reports. Authorities reportedly say dozens are minors who traveled without parents. The migrants were from 31 different nationalities — some are from Sudan, Algeria, Eritrea and Nigeria.

The backdrop: The influx of refugees and migrants fleeing from war- and poverty-ravaged countries to Europe has heightened pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said this weekend the migration crisis needs a 'European solution.'

  • Merkel is reportedly calling for a special summit on refugee policy ahead of this month’s European Council as some officials are pressing her to propose a compromise that would prohibit some refugees from crossing the German border, a policy measure her party is against, Politico EU reports.