The first of three vessels transporting migrants, who were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea last weekend, has arrived in Valencia.
"It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people, to comply with our human rights obligations," Spain's newly installed socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said, earlier in the week.
According to Reuters, health personnel and interpreters were at the port to treat and assist the arrivals. Sanchez's government announced free healthcare and individual asylum case review.
A banner displaying "Welcome home" in various languages was installed at the port, the Telegraph reported. The agency also said groups of anti-immigrant protesters armed with contrasting banners demonstrated against the arrival of the migrants.
Doctors Without Borders said the migrants hail from about 26 countries mainly on the African continent but also Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Italian coastguard ship, Dattilo, entered the port with 274 migrants onboard, Italian news agency Ansa reported. Though Italy assisted in the rescue, right-wing interior minister and League party leader Matteo Salvini, who sternly opposes immigration, refused entry to the migrants.
Valencia's Mayor Joan Ribo slammed Italy's decision as inhuman.
Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo announced that any migrants who wish to go to France – which is working with the Spanish government – would be allowed to do, providing a legitimate claim to asylum.
Sanchez said French President Emmanuel Macron's gesture was "exactly the kind of cooperation Europe needs." Migration reform is likely to be a key topic at a meeting of EU leaders later this month.
There were 629 migrants rescued in total, all were rejected by Malta – after Italy – before Spain stepped in to accept the week-long drifters. Official reports documented 123 unaccompanied minors, eleven under the age of 13 as well as seven pregnant women.
A second ship, the Orione, along with rescue vessel Aquarius, is expected to dock early Sunday with the remaining migrants in tow.
Some 1,000 Red Cross workers, and police officers, will be on hand to aid the migrants.