Spain dismisses migrant minors' asylum request

Associated Press

ROME (August 13, 2019) — A senior Spanish official says an asylum request on behalf of 31 migrant minors made by the captain of an aid group's ship that rescued them at sea carries no legal weight.

The minors, many from Eritrea, are among 151 people on the Open Arms rescue ship which is still seeking permission to disembark in a European port 13 days after it first rescued a group of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Spanish caretaker government's Public Works Minister, Jose Abalos, says Tuesday that Captain Marc Reig does not have the legal authority to request asylum for the minors.

Reig sent a letter Monday to the Spanish embassy in nearby Malta asking Madrid to grant the minors asylum.

There are actually more than 500 people who have been rescued in the Mediterranean but who remain stranded at sea as countries bicker over who should take them.

The migrants are aboard two ships chartered by humanitarian aid groups, but Italy's government is denying them access to its ports.

The UNHCR says nearly 600 people have died or gone missing in waters between Libya and Italy this year.

The European Commission says it's urging member countries to take action and is offering support, but has no power to intervene.

A spokeswoman says "there's nothing more we can do."

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