France, Italy leaders meet Friday amid clash over migration

Lester Mason
June 15, 2018

629 migrants were stranded on the high sees before Spain stepped in to take the ship, which was refused by both Italy and Malta.

Mr Macron accused Rome earlier this week of acting with "cynicism and irresponsibility" after it turned away a migrant rescue boat with 629 people, including 11 children and seven pregnant women, on board.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini chided French President Emmanuel Macron by name during a speech before Parliament's upper chamber, while Italian news reports said a meeting between Macron and Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte planned for Friday now was in doubt.

The Spanish government says it is expecting ships carrying 630 migrants to arrive in the port of Valencia on Sunday morning after bad weather forced the convoy to take a detour.

French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the block on the Aquarius, insisting that Italy should have taken the migrants in.

Italy recalled its French ambassador after Macron's comments. "The recognition of this fact is vitally important if we wish to give a concrete and dignified response to this humanitarian challenge", he said. "The French act superior but they have pushed back more than 10,000 people at the borders with Italy".

More than 700,000 migrants have landed on Italian shores since 2013, and Mr Salvini has repeatedly said that Italy can not continue to cope with the burden alone.

"Such statements are undermining relations between Italy and France", Italy's foreign ministry said in a statement.

It added that Italy was waiting for French to take action to "heal the situation that has been created".

"I fear a major tragedy if states start refusing to accept rescued migrants", its director general William Lacy Swing said. "We need to maintain dialogue", a source close to Macron said as the president visited the western town of Rochefort.

He called for stronger external controls, cooperation with Africa, sending home migrants who were not entitled to remain, and countering traffickers.

An Italian coast guard vessel has docked in Sicily with more than 900 migrants aboard, evidence that Italy's new anti-migrant government is still taking in some asylum-seekers but is forcing the rest of Europe to accept others.

The German chancellor, who is working to pull together a Europe-wide deal on redistributing asylum seekers and find a more lasting solution to illegal migration involving enhanced controls along the European Union's external border, has dismissed the plan as in breach of EU law.

Francis didn't refer to the dispute in his message, but echoed Italy's longstanding complaint that it has largely been left alone to cope with the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have landed on its shores in recent years.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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