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Dutch ready to take in Sea-Watch migrants

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The Hague (AFP)

The Netherlands announced Wednesday it was prepared to welcome some of the 32 migrants waiting to disembark from a Dutch-flagged vessel in the Mediterranean, if other countries did the same.

"The Netherlands has indicated a readiness to possibly take in a proportional number of migrants who are on board Sea-Watch 3, on condition that other European countries do the same," said security and justice ministry spokesman Lennart Wegewijs.

The Dutch had at first joined Italy, Malta and Spain in refusing to accept the migrants who were rescued on December 22 by Sea-Watch 3, which is operated by a German charity.

"Negotiations coordinated by the European Commission are underway between the different European countries," Wegewijs told AFP. "We are seeking a solution to this situation."

The 32 migrants who were plucked from a makeshift boat in international waters, include three young children, three unaccompanied adolescents and four women from Nigeria, Libya and Ivory Coast.

In Berlin, a government spokesman said Saturday that Germany would only accept some of the 32 if other European countries also agreed to do so.

Spanish coastguards reported Wednesday they had rescued 325 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean over the first two days of the new year.

The news comes just days after a charity rescue vessel carrying 311 mainly African migrants plucked off the coast of Libya docked in Spain, ending a traumatic journey which saw them spend Christmas at sea.

With Italian ports closed to migrants by the Rome government since June, Spain has become a leading destination.

A spokeswoman for Spain's coastguards told AFP they had rescued 111 migrants on Tuesday.

She added 214 more were saved on Wednesday, and coastguards were searching for another boat in distress.

More than 1,300 migrants died trying to reach Italy or Malta via the central Mediterranean last year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

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