NO WELCOME MAT: A rescue boat carrying 87 African migrants who were saved in the Mediterranean Sea docked yesterday at the southern Spanish port of Algeciras. Picture: AP
A RESCUE boat carrying 87 African migrants who were saved in the Mediterranean Sea docked yesterday at the southern Spanish port of Algeciras, but without the welcome offered to previous groups as the political mood in Spain began showing signs of tension about a spike in migrant arrivals.

The boat, operated by Spanish aid group Proactiva Open Arms, brought what it said were mostly Sudanese war refugees, including 12 minors, picked up off the Libyan coast on August 2.

Spain allowed the boat to come after other, geographically closer, European Union (EU) countries refused to let it dock amid continuing tension among EU governments about how best to respond to the wave of migrants crossing from Africa.

Spain’s new centre-left Socialist government made fair treatment for migrants one of its headline policies after coming to power two months ago.

In June, it announced measures to “put people’s rights first” in the country’s migration policies. Among other things, it took the first steps toward extending public health care to foreigners without residence permits.

The government official overseeing immigration, Magdalena Valerio, said earlier this week there would be no extra money for migrant policies before the end of the year.

The Spanish Network for Immigration and Refugee Help, a non-governmental organisation, accused the government of abruptly “changing course” in its immigration policies and “discriminating” against the new arrivals.

Critics of the new government’s perceived softer approach toward migrants said its policies had backfired, by attracting ever higher numbers, and the government is increasingly wary of that criticism.

The UN Migration Agency says almost 24000 refugees and other migrants have arrived in Spain by sea this year - nearly three times the number last year.

Elsewhere in the Mediterranean yesterday, a boat carrying migrants capsized off the Turkish coast, killing seven children and two women, Turkey’s state-run news agency said. - AP