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A Spanish humanitarian group on Sunday rejected Spain's offer to take in more than 100 mostly African migrants aboard a charity rescue ship that Italy had refused to let dock, saying it was too dangerous to sail that far.
"We are in a state of extreme humanitarian emergency," a spokeswoman for the Open Arms charity said. "What they need is to be disembarked now. It is unthinkable to navigate for six days; that is what it would takes for us to arrive at Algeciras," a Spanish port.
The migrants were picked up by the Open Arms boat off the coast of Libya, but have been stranded off the shores of Italy for two weeks.
Anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has refused to let the migrants disembark on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, part of his crackdown on charity rescue boats he claims facilitate the smuggling of migrants by human traffickers based in Libya.
Spain said it was "inconceivable" that Italy refused to accept the migrants, ordering its port of Algeciras to be ready to receive the Open Arms boat.
Open Arms, a Spanish-based charity that undertakes sea rescues of those trying to reach Europe as they flee from war, persecution or poverty, accused Salvini of using the 107 migrants for "xenophobic and racist propaganda."
The office of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the situation aboard the vessel was "urgent" and "untenable" for the 107 migrants on board, including two children.
The rescue charity said, "Spanish ports are not the closest or the safest for Open Arms... but for now Spain is the only country willing to accept it." But then it turned down Madrid's offer.
Desperate to reach Europe, four migrants in orange life vests jumped into the waters off Lampedusa and tried to swim ashore, but crew members quickly caught up with them and brought them back to the ship.
The rescue boat originally had 147 migrants aboard, but Italy allowed 40 to come ashore, including a few who were sick and 27 who said they were minors.
Source: Voice of America