A Spanish Maritime Rescue Services boat carrying migrants rescued at sea, at the port of Algeciras, southern Spain | Credit: EPA/A.CARRASCO RAGEL
A Spanish Maritime Rescue Services boat carrying migrants rescued at sea, at the port of Algeciras, southern Spain | Credit: EPA/A.CARRASCO RAGEL

No asylum request filed by 608 of the 629 migrants rescued by the Aquarius vessel have so far received an answer, according to Spanish interior ministry sources. In June, the rescue ship had been stuck at sea for days after being rejected by ports in Italy and Malta until Spain agreed to let the ship dock.

No asylum request filed by migrants rescued in the Mediterranean by the Aquarius, a rescue ship operated by NGOs Doctors Without Borders and Sos Mediterranée, has so far received an answer, interior ministry sources told Spain's Efe news agency.  

Under Spanish law, asylum requests have to be processed within six months, but the sources quoted by Efe said that the office in charge (Oar) is ''overwhelmed'' by requests, although an additional 200 employees joined the agency last month. 

Spain has seen an increase in migrant and asylum seeker arrivals recently, given that other countries in southwestern Europe, such as Italy and Malta, are increasingly closing their ports to migrant rescue vessels. 

608 migrants allowed to stay until applications are processed 

Although they received an extraordinary residency permit of 45 days upon landing, the 608 asylum seekers will be allowed to stay in Spain until their asylum application processes are completed - unless they previously requested asylum in another EU country or at an international criminal court.

Those who will receive asylum will have a period of integration ranging between six and 18 months during which they will be assisted by an NGO. Those who don't have a right to asylum and those who have not filed a request will be hosted at a detention center before being expelled to their country of origin.

As of August 22, of the 629 migrants aboard the Aquarius who landed in Valencia, 493 were protected under the State-run hosting program, according to the State secretariat for immigration. 414 of them are being hosted in Spain, while 79 were transferred to France. 

The 73 unaccompanied minors on the boat are staying at a center for the protection of minors in the area of Valencia. 

Spain registers highest number of landings in Europe 

With 22,577 people who reached the country by sea as of August 22, Spain is the country in Europe with the highest number of landings of migrants and asylum seekers in 2018, according to data published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The UN-linked organization said Spain was the destination of 42 percent of the 65,576 migrants who reached the European continent through the Mediterranean from January 1 until August 22 this year. That's three times more compared to the same period in 2017, when a reported 8,700 people landed on Spain's coasts. 

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