France has agreed to accept some of the 630 migrants from 26 countries rescued by the MV Aquarius following an international spat between French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian authorities which led to Spain agreeing to take them in.
Among them are 450 adult men and 80 women -- including at least seven pregnant women -- as well as 11 under-13s and 93 adolescents, according to figures released by authorities in Valencia. -AFP
After Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refused to accept the NGO vessel packed with shipwrecked immigrants, Macron said that Italy was "playing politics" with the migrants, and that the Italian government had displayed "cynicism and irresponsibility."
Mr Macron's spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said the French president recalled that "in cases of distress, those with the nearest coastline have a responsibility to respond".
"There is a degree of cynicism and irresponsibility in the Italian government's behaviour," he quoted President Macron as saying. -BBC
Rome wasn't having any of Macron's rhetoric - as Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte shot back - accusing Macron of being hypocritical, cynical and rigid.
"The statements around the Aquarius affair that come from France are surprising and show a serious lack of knowledge about what is really happening. Italy can not accept hypocritical lessons from countries that have always preferred to turn their backs when it comes to immigration," Conte's office said.
After Italy closed their ports to the migrants and nearby Malta refused to take them in as well, Spain agreed to take the North Africans - who were escorted by the Italian Navy to Valencia.
The ship is making the 1,500-kilometre (930-mile) voyage to Spain accompanied by Italian coast guard vessels, which have taken on board some of the migrants.
High waves and winds forced the convoy to take a detour on the way, but the first migrants are expected to land in Valencia between 6am (0400 GMT) and 12pm (1000 GMT) on Sunday. -AFP
And after several days of discussions, Madrid announced on Saturday that it had accepted France's offer to take in some of the 630 shipwrecked migrants.
"The French government will work together with the Spanish government to handle the arrival of the migrants", said Spain's deputy prime minister, Carmen Calvo.
"France will accept migrants who express the wish to go there" once they have been processed in Valencia, a statement said.
Spain's Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, thanked Macron for his gesture, saying it was "exactly the kind of cooperation Europe needs" at this hour.
In Valencia, preparations were underway to welcome the worn-out travellers after their long ordeal. A huge banner was put up at the port saying "Welcome home" in various languages including Catalan, the local language, and...