"Shameful" handling of migrant ship shows need for European Union asylum reform

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Wednesday that without an "official apology" from France, a planned meeting between Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday should be cancelled.

The issue arose when Italy's new populist government insisted that Malta take in the migrants rescued by the humanitarian ship Aquarius, which it refused to do.

But after Italy and Malta refused entry to the ship, two Italian boats escorted the migrants to Spain - co-operated by SOS Mediterranee and Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), who offered them "safe harbour".

Salvini, the leader of the far-right, anti-immigration League party, blocked the Aquarius from entering Italian ports this weekend, prompting an global outcry.

According to AFP news agency, citing a diplomatic source, the French ambassador will be received at 10:00 am (0800 GMT) at Farnesina, the seat of the Foreign Ministry in Rome.

United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi urged the European Union on Wednesday to sort out its "shameful" refugee policy after both Italy and Malta turned away a ship carrying hundreds of migrants.

"The same can not be said of France, which has often adopted much more rigid and cynical immigration policies".

France and Italy traded insults, rifts widened in Germany's ruling coalition and Austria called for an "axis of the willing" to take action as a simmering row over how Europe should handle irregular migration finally boiled over.

Spain stepped in and said the migrants could land at the port of Valencia.

In Germany, the hardline interior minister, Horst Seehofer, pulled out of an integration summit hosted by the chancellor, Angela Merkel, saying Berlin should cooperate with Vienna and Rome in combating illegal immigration.

Yet Slovakia's premier insisted that "we refuse to let migrants enter our country", a stance that could bring him into conflict with Italy's new leaders, who have called for the automatic, compulsory resettlement of migrants across all European Union countries.

Luigi Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S) that makes up Italy's new government alongside the League, minister of labour and, with Salvini, joint deputy prime minister, said that it was "embarrassing" that France "preached to us" as Italy is asking its European partners to share duties with Italy.

The country has seen more than 700,000 migrants arrive on its shores since 2013.

Under EU rules, migrants must apply for asylum in the European nation where they first arrive.

They were saved during several rescue operations off the coast of Libya.

"We have put a stop to the NGOs".

Meanwhile, an Italian coastguard ship carrying more than 900 migrants was allowed to dock in Sicily on Wednesday.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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