This undated photo released on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, by French NGO "SOS Mediterranee" and posted on it's Twitter account, shows stranded migrants aboard SOS Mediterranee's Aquarius ship and MSF (Doctors Without Borders) NGOs, in the Mediterranean Sea. Italy's new "Italians first" government claimed victory Monday when the Spanish prime minister offered safe harbor to a private rescue ship after Italy and Malta refused to allow it permission to disembark its 629 migrant passengers in their ports. (Kenny Karpov/SOS Mediterranee via AP)

The Latest: Germany's Merkel in new domestic migration spat

June 12, 2018 - 12:05 pm

CATANIA, Sicily (AP) — The Latest on Europe's response to mass immigration: (all times local):

5:50 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her interior minister, an often-awkward conservative ally, are at odds over the latter's calls to turn back some migrants at the border in the future.

Horst Seehofer, who became interior minister in March, called off the presentation scheduled for Tuesday of his so-called "master plan" for migration amid disagreement within Merkel's conservative bloc.

Seehofer advocates turning back at the German border asylum-seekers previously registered in another European Union country. Merkel wants European solutions to migration issues and is wary of Germany taking such action.

The issue has revived tensions that date back to the migrant crisis of 2015-2016. Seehofer leads the Christian Social Union, the Bavaria-only sister party to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, and was a leading critic of her welcoming stance.


5:40 p.m.

A German migrant aid group says its ship is heading toward a shipwreck 20 miles (32 kilometers) off the coast of Libya in which 12 people are believed to have died.

The Sea-Watch group wrote on Twitter Tuesday that the wreck was reported "by an order of the U.S. Navy, which has rescued 41 people from the water and confirms 12 corpses."

Sea-Watch is one of several aid groups operating rescue ships in the Mediterranean. There were no immediate details on the wreck and its passengers.

Italy's new government this week refused to allow another charity group's rescue vessel to dock in a bid to force Europe to share the burden of unrelenting migrant arrivals.


4:20 p.m.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is calling on Italy to reconsider its position and take in 629 migrants on a private rescue ship that has been seeking a place to dock since Saturday.

Le Drian, speaking at the lower house of France's parliament, said the aid groups Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee think it would take too long to take Spain up on its offer of the port of Valencia.

The rescue ship Aquarius has been stuck since Saturday in international waters off the coast of Italy and Malta, both of which have refused it entry.

Le Drian said the status quo regarding the management of the Mediterranean waters "isn't sustainable."

France argues Italy didn't respect international maritime laws.


3 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron has criticized what he called Italy's cynicism and irresponsibility in turning away a ship stuck off the country's shores with 629 migrants on board.

Government spokesman Benjamin Grivaux reported Macron's comments in Tuesday's weekly Cabinet meeting.

"If any ship was closer to France's shores, it could obviously dock on the French coast", Macron said according to Grivaux.

The rescue ship Aquarius has been stuck since Saturday in international waters off the coast of Italy and Malta, both of which have refused it entry. The migrants are now preparing for a trip to Spain, which has offered the ship safe harbor.

Macron welcomed Spain's humanitarian gesture, Grivaux said.

Grivaux added that France doesn't want to "start a precedent" that would allow some European countries to breach international laws and rely on other EU member states.


1:40 p.m.

Hungary's radically anti-migrant prime minister has praised the decision of the new Italian government to reject a rescue vessel full of migrants from docking at an Italian port.

Viktor Orban said his initial reaction to the news was a sigh of "Finally!" Orban said it had been "so depressing" to hear for years that Europe's maritime borders cannot be defended that "one practically lost the will to live."

Speaking Tuesday after a meeting with his Slovak counterpart, Peter Pellegrini, Orban said that Italy's decision to turn away the Aquarius rescue vessel, with 629 migrants onboard, was a "great moment which may truly bring changes in Europe's migration policies."

The migrants are preparing for a trip to Spain, where the country's new prime minister has offered them safe harbor.


1 p.m.

The aid group Doctors Without Borders is urging Italy and Malta to reconsider their decision to refuse to let a rescue vessel carrying hundreds of migrants dock in their ports, saying the migrants are too "exhausted and stressed" for another four days at sea to go to Spain.

The 629 migrants, onboard the rescue vessel Aquarius, are preparing for a trip to Spain, whose new prime minister has offered them safe harbor after Italy and Malta refused them permission to dock in their ports.

The aid groups said Tuesday it is particularly concerned about the condition of patients who had to be resuscitated after rescue, saying they could develop "significant pulmonary issues after swallowing sea water."

Doctors without Borders, which operates the Aquarius with SOS Mediterranee, said that to continue the sea journey to Valencia, Spain "would mean already exhausted people rescued at sea would have to endure four more days exposed to the elements on the deck, in an overcrowded boat well over maximum capacity."


12 noon

The government of Spain's Valencia region says it is expecting ships carrying 629 migrants who were rejected by Italy and Malta to call "in three or four days" at its port.

The vice president of the regional government, Monica Oltra, was speaking to reporters on Tuesday, after Spain offered to take in the group of migrants, which includes 120 minors and seven pregnant women. The migrants were onboard the Aquarius, a rescue vessel operated by aid group SOS Mediterranee, which has been stuck in the Mediterranean Sea since Saturday.

Oltra says the timing will depend on when they depart, the weather and conditions at sea.

She said the Red Cross was preparing to provide shelter and medical assistance to the migrants on arrival, and that other Spanish regions and cities had offered to provide longer term support.


10:45 a.m.

The new Spanish foreign minister has said that by taking in the migrants aboard a rescue ship refused by Italy and Malta, Spain is looking to push European Union leaders to address the bloc's migration policies later this month.

"Spain has made a gesture that aims to trigger a European dynamic to stop looking away, allowing one (EU member) to cope with the problem while the rest of us pass the buck," Borrell told Ser radio late on Monday.

He said the decision to offer a docking port in the eastern city of Valencia had been a personal and direct move by the country's new prime minister, the Socialist Pedro Sanchez.

Borrell also said that the issue will be taken by Spain to the council of EU heads of state or government on June 28-29.


10:40 a.m.

Aid group SOS Mediterranee Sea says it is transferring some of the 629 migrants rescued at sea to Italian ships to continue to the journey to Spain where the prime minister has offered safe harbor.

The Aquarius, the rescue ship operated by SOS Mediterranee, has been stuck at sea 35 nautical miles off the coast of Sicily since Saturday when Italy refused permission to dock and demanded Malta do so. Malta refused.

SOS Mediterranee spokeswoman Mathilde Auvillain said Tuesday that some passengers were being transferred before the journey "for security reasons" because of deteriorating weather conditions on the voyage to Valencia, Spain. Many passengers had been on decks and are being moved to ships of the Italian Navy and Coast Guard.


This version corrects that Sanchez is Spain's new prime minister, not president.

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