By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged Europe to welcome migrants fleeing crisis abroad, telling reporters Monday he is concerned about a possible "shrinking" of protections on the continent after Italy turned away a boat carrying over 600 people.
"I've always been extremely concerned with the fact that the space for refugee protection in Europe might be shrinking, and my strong appeal is that, recognizing that countries have the right to manage their borders and have the right to define their own migration policies, countries should do it in a protection‑sensitive way and countries should do it in full respect for international refugee law," he said at the UN's New York headquarters.
His remarks were in response a question regarding the far-right Italian Interior Minister's decision to turn away the MS Aquarius, a boat that had participated in a migrant rescue operation, ultimately bringing aboard 629 people, including 123 unaccompanied minors.
Following Italy's decision, Malta also said it would not accept the boat. But Spain reportedly said Monday it would allow the boat to dock in Valencia.
The boat is quickly running out of provisions, and it is unclear when the Aquarius will make its way to the eastern Spanish port.