Former president of the Italian Lower Chamber, Laura Boldrini, 3rd from right, talks to migrants on the deck of the Italian Coast Guard ship Diciotti moored at the Catania harbor, Italy, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018. An official from Italy's office for personal rights says 150 migrants are being kept aboard without proper authorization aboard an Italian coast guard vessel. Daniela de Robert told Sky TG24 TV after a three-hour visit aboard the Diciotti, that the migrants come from countries from which they should be "easily" able to request refugee status. The Italian news agency ANSA quoted said their rights are being violated because there is no judicial order to prevent their disembarking in Sicily. (Orietta Scardino/ANSA via AP)

The Latest: Spain denies migrant expulsion is policy change

August 24, 2018 - 9:44 am

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on Europe's migrant crisis (all times local):

4:45 p.m.

Spain is denying that its decision to send back to Morocco 116 migrants who entered the country illegally amounts to a change in migration policy.

Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said Friday that Spain activated a 1992 agreement with Rabat to expel the migrants.

She says they used "unacceptable" violence when they stormed fences separating Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta from Morocco on Wednesday. Seven policemen were hurt.

Calvo says Spain will keep receiving migrants rescued in the Mediterranean in a "safe and humanitarian" manner.

Sub-Saharan Africans living illegally in Morocco often try to enter Europe by scaling fences surrounding Ceuta and Melilla, Spain's other North African enclave.

Migrant arrivals in Spain have spiked in recent months, placing strain on public services and putting political pressure on the government.


2:00 p.m.

An Italian lawmaker says rescued migrants stuck aboard an Italian coast guard ship are starting a hunger strike.

Opposition Sen. Davide Faraone, who visited the migrants a day earlier on the Diciotti, tweeted on Friday that Catania port officials told him "there's tension" on the ship, and that migrants have stopped eating out of frustration the Italian government won't let them disembark.

Rescued on Aug. 16 in the Mediterranean Sea, 150 migrants are still on the ship after minors and the sick were allowed off in recent days.

Sky TG24 TV said some women aboard ate lunch Friday but the men refused the meal.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini says other European Union nations must pledge to take the migrants before they can disembark.

Most of the migrants are Eritrean.


1:30 p.m.

The European Union is warning Italy to refrain from issuing threats in the continuing migrant crisis after a prominent government member said that Rome could withhold part of its EU payments.

EU Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said Friday that "the European Union is a community of rules and it operates on the basis of rules, not threats."

Italy has barred from port some ships with migrants picked up at sea over what it says is sluggishness of other countries to help out. One already-docked ship carrying about 150 is now banned from disembarking adults. Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio said the government could curtail its EU contributions if no solution is found.

Winterstein called on "all parties involved to work constructively together to find a swift solution."

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