Spain rescues hundreds of refugees from sea as new left-wing government embraces softer immigration stance
Spanish authorities have rescued 569 migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from north Africa â" including two men in a canoe.
Dinghies and wooden rafts were among vessels found carrying people on Friday night and Saturday morning, the countryâs Maritime Rescue Service said.
Some 264 of the migrants were pulled from the Strait of Gibraltar, one of the worldâs busiest and most dangerous shipping lanes.
Fine weather is thought to have sparked a surge in the numbers braving the treacherous crossing.
Spain released the figures as its new centre-left government â" led by socialist Pedro SÃ¡nchez â" continued to embrace a promised softer stance on immigration. Just last week, the country took in 630 rescued people from the aid ship Aquarius after Italy had refused to let the vessel dock there.
By contrast, Italy itself continued to reiterate on Saturday that its ports were closed to such rescue boats.
Another vessel â" belonging to the German aid group Mission Lifeline and with 234 migrants onboard â" remains at sea after both Italy and Malta turned it away.
Italyâs new far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini said, from now on, such migrants would only see Italy âon a postcardâ.
He added: âWe cannot take in one more person. On the contrary, we want to send away a few. Italian ports are no longer at the disposal of traffickers. Open the Maltese ports. Open the French ports.â
He said his country is suffering under a constant stream of people coming illegally from Africa. He has threatened to withhold payments to the European Union if the block does not come up with a way of dispersing such migrants more evenly across the continent.