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What next for Aquarius migrants in Spain?

Rescued migrants and MSF personnel on board an Italian coastguard ship following their transfer from..



Rescued migrants and MSF personnel on board an Italian coastguard ship following their transfer from the French NGO's ship Aquarius on route to Spain. Photo: AFP / MSF/SOS MEDITERRANEE / KARPO

Spain's new Socialist government has offered to take in the 629 migrants aboard the Aquarius rescue ship that was stranded in the Mediterranean after Italy and Malta refused to let it dock.

READ ALSO: Spain will take stranded migrants to 'avoid a castastrophe'

The Aquarius is transporting 106 migrants to Valencia having left Italy on Tuesday night for the 4-day journey is expected to arrive on late Saturday or early Sunday.

The rest of the 523 migrants that had been rescued by the SOS Mediteranee NGO ship have been transferred to the Dattilo and the Orione, the two largest ships in the Italian Coast Guard fleet, which will bring them to Valencia.

The sea conditions are stormy, with many of those on board reportedly suffering from seasickness.

On arrival in Valencia

Spain´s Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo (R) and Valencian regional President Ximo Puig (L) give a press conference in Valencia as the city prepares for the arrival of hundreds of migrants stranded for days on the French NGO's ship Aquarius. Photo: AFP

The arrival of the three ships transporting the group of rescued migrants will be staggered so there is time to assess and process each of those on board, explained Carmen Calvo, the deputy PM on Thursday.

After meeting with Ximo Puig, the regional president of Valencia to coordinate the arrival, she said that the migrants would be dealt with in a specific area of the cruise terminal at the port in Valencia and that each of the 629 migrants would be dealt be given “personalized attention”.

“Some will then be taken directly to migrant detention centres (CIE) and other to humanitarian aid centres depending on their condition,” she said, adding that the priority was to address the humanitarian crisis and then deal with the legal status of each migrant.

“We are worried about the unaccompanied children, and the people who have been victims of some sort of crime. Such as those who have been trafficked with the purpose of sexual exploitation,” she said.

Those who need medical treatment will be transferred to hospitals where spaces have been allocated.

Migrants or refugees?

Anyone stepping foot on Spanish soil has the legal right to request asylum, so those rescued by the Aquarius may indeed request protection claiming fear of persecution in their own countries.

Those who come from countries such as Congo, South Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Adghanistan or Syria have a legitimate claim and will likely be allowed to process an asylum claim.

However, for those from countries such as Morocco, Senegal, Ghana or Algeria, an asylum claim is more complicated.

Just like any other arrivals

File photo of rescued migrants arriving in southern Spain. Photo: AFP

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said during an interview with radio Cope on Thursday that these migrants would be treated "in the same way" as the more than 9,000 migrants who have reached Spain by sea so far this year.

"It will be decided if a person should receive protection or not" by distinguishing between those who have endured "all sorts of calamities" to qualify for asylum, and those who come for "economic reasons", the minister said.

Arrivals by sea double

Since the start of the year, over 9,300 migrants reached Spain's shores by sea, more than double the figure for the same period last year, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The number of migrants who died while trying to reach Spain by sea has more than quadrupled to 244 as of June 10th from 61 last year during the same period.

Most migrants travel in packed boats from Morocco's northern shore to Spain's southern coast, a distance of over 100 kilometres (60 miles) depending on the route.

Spain was the third most popular destination for migrants in the European Union last year after Italy and Greece.

What happens after they arrive?

After passing through a police station to be identified, migrants are usually taken to one of seven longer-term immigration detention centres where they wait for up to 60 days for their fate to be decided.

Some 8,800 people passed through these centres last year, according to official figures. Human rights Watch and other rights groups complain that migrants are held in poor conditions in these centres and face obstacles in applying for asylum.

"A lot of people are released into the streets after 72 hours (at a police station), because currently there are no more places in the centres," Carlos Arce, migration coordinator at the Human Rights Association of Andalusia (APDHA), told AFP.

These migrants are left to fend for themselves, without any follow-up or help from the government, he added.

For those who manage to formally seek asylum, the system is saturated.

Is there a 'siren call' risk?

A sign formerly hanging on Madrid's City Hall. Photo: AFP

The government's decision to take in the migrants from the Aquarius, operated by SOS Mediterranee, has been generally well received in Spain, with dozens of cities and regions offering to give them shelter.

But the conservative Popular Party which ran Spain for six years, until they were ousted in a no-confidence vote on June 1st, quickly sounded the alarm that the move would act as a "siren call" for more migrants.

While the number of migrants arriving in Spain by sea has doubled, in Italy arrivals by sea have dropped by 73 percent over the same period last year to 14,330 as of June 10, according to IOM figures.

Change in policy?

Sanchez cited "humanitarian reasons" for agreeing to accept the migrants from the Aquarius ship. The gesture contrasted with the policy under his conservative predecessor Mariano Rajoy whose government was often accused of only reluctantly accepting migrants.

"Spain is far from respecting the quota of migrants that has been assigned each country" by the European Commission, Spanish foreign Minister Josep Borrell said Wednesday.

The country pledged to receive 9,323 refugees who arrived in Greece and Italy but as of May 31st it had only welcomed 1,359, according to the Commission.

READ ALSO: Spain's new interior minister just promised to remove razor wire at Melilla and Ceuta borders

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Spain’s far-right Vox seek to make gains in 28 May local and regional elections



Spain’s third largest political group in the national parliament, the far-right Vox party, is looking to make gains in the local and regional elections due to be held across the country on 28 May.

Since it entered a regional government for the first time in Castilla y León last year, Vox has attacked the unions and pushed polarising positions on social issues, including abortion and transgender rights.

It is now poised to spread its influence beyond the sparsely populated region near Madrid, with the party hoping to make gains in the elections at the end of May.

Surveys suggest the main opposition, the right-wing People’s Party (PP), could need the support of Vox to govern in half of the 12 regions casting ballots, just as it did in Castilla y León last year.

Polls also indicate the PP is on track to win a year-end general election but would need Vox to form a working majority and oust socialist (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his coalition government from office.

Vox leader Santiago Abascal [pictured at a recent rally in Chinchón, near Madrid] has called the PP-VOX coalition government in office in Castilla y León since March 2022 a ‘showroom’ and ‘an example of the alternative Spain needs’.

It is Spain’s first government to include a far-right party since the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

In Castilla y León, Vox has slashed funding to unions, which the party has vowed to ‘put in their place’ if it comes to power nationally. Trade union UGT was forced to lay off 40% of its staff in Castilla y León last month and scale back programmes to promote workspace safety. Spain’s other main union, the CCOO, is reportedly preparing to follow suit.

Vox has also angered LGBTQ groups by refusing to allow the regional parliament to be lit up in the colours of the rainbow, the symbol of the gay rights movement, for Pride festivities as in past years when the PP governed alone.

In addition, the regional vice-president, Vox’s Juan García-Gallardo, has railed against a law passed by Spain’s leftist central government that extends transgender rights.

The 32-year-old lawyer warned earlier this month that women would now be ‘forced to share locker rooms with hairy men at municipal swimming pools’.

Vox’s most contested initiative was a proposal that doctors offer women seeking an abortion a 4D ultrasound scan to try to discourage them from going ahead with the procedure.

The idea was swiftly condemned by Spain’s leftist central government, and Castilla y León’s PP president Alfonso Fernández Mañueco stopped the measure from going ahead.

The issue highlighted the hazards for the PP of joining forces with Vox, which was launched in 2013 and is now the third-largest party in the national parliament.


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Spain – Gas falls below 90 euros per MWh for the first time in almost two months



The price of TTF natural gas for delivery next month has fallen below 90 euros on Friday for the first time in almost two months and closes a week marked by the decision of the European Commission to cap gas with a drop of 29, 36%.
According to data from the Bloomberg platform, gas closed this Friday at 83 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh), 8.9% less than the day before and the first time it has lost 90 euros since last October 31.
After months of negotiations, the EU agreed on Monday to set a cap of 180 euros on contracts linked to the Amsterdam TTF index with a price difference of at least 35 euros above the average price of liquefied natural gas in the markets.

EU countries agree on a cap of 180 euros for gas with the support of Germany
In a report this week, the Swiss investment bank Julius Baer indicated that the chances of the mechanism being activated are low and pointed out that the chosen formula was not very effective in avoiding the multiplier effect that gas has on the price of electricity. However, he reiterated what was said in other previous reports: “Energy supply risks are minimal and prices should continue to decline in the future” due to the availability of raw materials from Asia to offset cuts from Russia.

Gas tends to fall during the hot months due to lower demand, but this summer it has reached historic heights as European countries were buying to face the winter with their tanks full and reduce their dependence on Russia. The price fell in September and October due to lower demand once the warehouses were full due to the high temperatures at the beginning of autumn, but in November it picked up again and 66% more expensive.

This article was originally published on Público

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Spain – The retirement age rises to 66 years



Ordinary retirement at age 65 ends for those who have contributed less than 38 years. In fact, 2023 will be the last year in which this can be done since it will be necessary to have a contribution career of a minimum of 37 years and nine months to be able to retire with the reference age of the last century, since it was established in 1919, and once the year is over another quarter will be added to be able to do it without cuts in the benefit.
This requirement means that to access ordinary retirement at age 65 without loss of pay, it will be necessary to have been working, at least, since April 1985 for those who exercise this right in December 2023 and since May 1984 for those who intend to do it in January.

More than ten million contributory pensioners
In the last decade, and coinciding with the implementation of the delay program, the real retirement age of Spanish workers has increased by one year, from 63.9 in 2012 to 64.8 in mid-2022, according to data from the Financial Economic Report of the Social Security included in the General State Budget.

Contributory pensions will have a historic rise of 8.5% as of January as a result of the disproportionate increase in the CPI, while for non-contributory pensions the revision will be 15%. This review will place the average pension of the contributory system at 1,187 euros per pay, while the retirement pension will rise to 1,365, the disability pension will reach 1,122 and the widow’s pension will reach 847, as a result of applying the 8.5% increase.

The Social Security forecasts point to next year, and while waiting to find out the real effects that the rise may have on the payroll due to its “call effect” to bring forward retirement given the opportunity to alleviate with it the penalties for anticipating it, the number of pensioners will consolidate above ten million, with almost two-thirds of them (6.37) as retirees, to which will be added 2.3 million widows and almost one affected by work disabilities.

This record number of pensioners will place the cost of pensions at 209,165 million euros, the bulk of which (196,399, 93.8%) will be used to pay benefits, including non-contributory ones. Health care has a budget of 1,890 million euros and social services another 3,791, while the remaining 7,144 are dedicated to operating expenses.

On the revenue side, the largest contribution comes from the contribution chapter, which will amount to 152,075 million and will leave the gap with contributory benefits at 36,765.
The imbalance will be covered by a contribution of 38,904 from the Government, to which is added a chapter of others worth 18,116 and which includes everything from sanctions to asset disposals, among other concepts.

Read more of this from the source Público

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