Migrant ships arrive in Valencia after week at sea

The Lifeline ship started its rescue mission in September 2017

It was followed by Aquarius, operated by aid groups SOS Méditerranée and Doctors Without Borders, and Italian navy ship the Orione.

At the port, a huge banner was hung up saying "Welcome home" in various languages including Arabic.

Health officials and interpreters were on hand to offer support.

They come from 26 countries, mainly from Africa but also Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, MSF said.

Spain will offer them humanitarian stays of 45 days while their requests for asylum in Spain or France are considered.

Salvini, who has emerged as the most outspoken member of Italy's two-week-old government, said on Facebook that two other foreign NGO ships, the Lifeline and the Seefuchs, were off the coast of Libya waiting to pick up migrants abandoned by human traffickers.

Valencian local government officials said none of the people who arrived on the first boat showed signs of serious illness, but many had suffered from crowded conditions and high temperatures in recent days.

"They also look exhausted", she told AFP.

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Pascal Brice, the director-general of the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons, Ofpra, told the AFP news agency that one of his teams would travel to Valencia to help with the asylum procedure as early as this week.

Italy's interior minister and the leader of the anti-immigrant League, Matteo Salvini, had argued that "an army of fake refugees" had long exploited what he called the country's lax rules.

MSF emergency coordinator Karline Kleijer said "nothing justifies the degrading treatment" Italy "inflicted" on the passengers of the Aquarius.

"These men women and children fled poverty and wars", she told the same news conference.

After Rome's decision to ban the Aquarius, Macron and Italian premier Giuseppe Conte met Friday and called for the European Union to set up asylum processing centres in Africa to prevent "voyages of death".

The first of three vessels entered Harbour soon after dawn. Italy then asked Malta to receive them, but Malta also refused. The USS Trenton also picked up 12 dead bodies during the rescue.

More than 1.8 million migrants have arrived in Europe since 2014, and Italy is now sheltering more than 170,000 asylum seekers, as well as an estimated 500,000 unregistered migrants.

On Sunday, 60 activists who marched from the French-Italian border town of Ventimiglia - a bottleneck for migrants travelling north - arrived in Paris where they joined around 2,000 protestors at a rally calling on Europe to do more to welcome migrants and refugees.

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