In the summer of 2018 the rescue boat Aquarius with 629 migrants on board was stranded in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Libya. There was a standoff between the governments of Malta and Italy, as both refused to let the boat dock at their ports. One week after taking office in June 2018, the recently elected Socialist Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, allowed the migrants to disembark in order to avoid what he called a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ (BBC News 2018). A steep rise in irregular sea arrivals in Spain with 57,000 irregular entries detected in 2018 – double the 2017 number (Frontex 2019a) – was labelled by his political opponents as a ‘Sánchez effect’ (Jones 2019).
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