Migrant ship drama - a test for Italy and Spain

Migrant ship drama - a test for Italy and Spain
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By Damon Embling
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The events in the Mediterranean have been closely watched by Brussels

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The drama surrounding the migrant ship drifting in the Mediterranean has been watched closely by Brussels. While hundreds remained stranded, the European Commission said it was cooperating with both Malta and Italy over the weekend, but emphasised the humanitarian priority.

"We are supporting just as much Italy as Malta. But the real question for us today, is that support should be given to the people on that boat," said Natasha Bertaud, a European Commission spokesperson.

And support came from Spain. It offered to take in the ship after Italy and Malta refused to let it dock. Some 629 migrants are aboard the Aquarius, a vessel operated by the charities Medecins Sans Frontieres and Sos Mediterranee,

EU Commissioner Avramopoulos tweeted that the Spanish move was solidarity in action, while Belgian Liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt said the episode showed the limits of Europe's asylum policy.

It was a clear first test for the new governments in Italy and Spain and their future relationship with the EU institutions.

It was Italy's new far-right Interior Minister who blocked the ship from docking and said it should go to Malta.

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