This photo released on Sunday, June 17, 2018, by French NGO "SOS Mediterranee", shows migrants disembarking the SOS Mediterranee's Aquarius ship and MSF (Doctors Without Borders) NGOs, after its arrival at the eastern port of Valencia, Spain. Ships in the Aquarius aid convoy docked Sunday at the Spanish port of Valencia, ending a week long ordeal for hundreds of people who were rescued from the perilous Mediterranean only to become the latest pawn in Europe's battle over immigration. (Kenny Karpov/SOS Mediterranee via AP)

The Latest: Rescued migrants in Spain seeking French asylum

June 18, 2018 - 7:26 am

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on the immigration debate in Europe (all times local):

1:20 p.m.

A top Spanish official says that more than 300 migrants who are in Spain after their rescue boat was rejected by other European governments are requesting to be granted asylum in France.

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo told Spanish radio Cadena Ser on Monday that half of the 630 migrants who arrived at the Spanish port of Valencia on Sunday on convoy of ships, including the rescue boat Aquarius, expressed such a desire.

She called the agreement with France "an example of cooperation" within the European Union.

The Aquarius completed a 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) journey from Sicily to Valencia, ending a weeklong ordeal for the 630 people rescued from the Mediterranean Sea, only to be rejected by Italy and Malta.

Spain's new center-left government granted the migrants 45-day stays to sort out their legal status.

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12:15 p.m.

The Vatican and Mexico are lamenting how children "are suffering the most" from migration, as the Trump administration comes under increasing criticism for its policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Vatican on Monday released the conclusions of the second Vatican-Mexico conference on international migration, held last week at the Vatican.

The statement made no explicit reference to the U.S. separation policy, though it stressed the need to "insist on the centrality of the human person in every political act ... reaffirming the inviolability of human rights and the dignity of every human being on the move."

The U.S. conference of Catholic bishops has condemned as "immoral" the Trump administration's policy of separating children from their parents at the border, which the U.S. has defended as enforcing the law.

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10 a.m.

The European Union's asylum office says the number of people applying for international protection in Europe has plunged but remains higher than before 2015, when more than one million migrants entered, many fleeing the war in Syria.

EASO said in an annual report Monday that 728,470 application requests were made for international protection in 2017, compared to almost 1.3 million applications the previous year. It says around 30 percent of the applicants come from conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

EASO says there is a still a backlog: more than 950,000 applications were still awaiting a final decision at the end of last year, almost half of them in Germany.

Over 460,000 people applied for asylum in Europe in 2013. More than 660,000 did so in 2014.

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