Italy summons French Ambassador amid migrant boat row

by Garry Watts June 16, 2018, 14:49
Italy summons French Ambassador amid migrant boat row

"With my German and Austrian colleagues. we will propose a new (immigration) initiative", Salvini said, adding that it would apply both to the EU's external borders and to how the bloc's countries manage migrants internally.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke with his Spanish counterpart Josep Borrell over the phone about the current European migrant crisis, and both sides urged "a broad discussion" of the hard issue at the European Union summit on June 28-29, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Milanesi added that the comments made by France were "compromising relations between Italy and France".

In a phone call with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Wednesday evening, "the president stressed that none of his comments were meant to offend Italy and the Italian people", Macron's office said in a statement.

"France past year received a record number of asylum seekers", she said, referring to the 100,000 asylum requests received by the country.

France has declared its readiness to accept migrants from the rescue vessel Aquarius, which has refused to Italy and Malta.

French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the decision to block the Aquarius, operated by the Franco-German charity SOS Mediterranne, saying global law obliged Italy to take in the migrants. The Aquarius was heading for Spain on Wednesday.

Italy's rejection of a migrant ship is shameful but the responsibility lies with Europe as a whole, United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi told Reuters on Wednesday.

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Correction: This article has been updated to clarify that the US Navy carried out the operation that rescued 40 people on Tuesday off the coast of Libya.

Italy has taken in more than 640,000 mainly African migrants and refugees over the past five years.

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.

Macron's office said Tuesday that France doesn't want to "start a precedent" that would allow some European countries to breach global laws and rely on other EU member states to take in migrants.

On Monday, Spain said that it would be welcoming the Aquarius and allowing it to dock in Valencia. "We need to maintain dialogue", a source close to Macron said as the president visited the western town of Rochefort.

Salvini demanded an apology after French President Emmanuel Macron accused Italy of cynical, irresponsible behavior by refusing to let the Aquarius dock in an Italian port.

That drop appears to be a result of a 2017 deal between Italy and Libya in which the southern European country pledged to bolster Libya's coast guard so it could spot departing migrant boats and house migrants attempting the crossing.

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