Italy, France tensions spiral over rejected migrant ship

Italy, France tensions spiral over rejected migrant ship

Italy, France tensions spiral over rejected migrant ship

Salvini has accused European aid groups of essentially operating taxi services for Libya-based human traffickers and said Italy will now refuse their rescue ships entry. Italian maritime vessels, however, are still docking in its ports: on Wednesday, an Italian coast guard vessel docked in Catania, Sicily with 932 migrants aboard. Spain stepped up and offered the Aquarius safe harbour in Valencia after Italy and Malta both refused. In fact, he continues to tweet with the hashtag #chiudiamoiporti ("let's shut the ports") and to claim victory because Italy, as the he sees it, is standing in defiance of global treaties and European Union agreements on the protection of migrants, human rights and asylum claims.

French President Emmanuel Macron did not mean to offend Italy with comments about the migrant crisis that have sparked a bitter diplomatic row, his office said Thursday (Jun 14).

Italy's new populist government came under fire Tuesday from its European Union neighbours after refusing to let a foreign NGO boat carrying 629 mostly African migrants dock in Italy. The ship was eventually rerouted to Spain, after Spanish authorities said it would be allowed to dock in Valencia.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Macron are due to hold talks on Friday ahead of the European summit on at the end of the month, with a particular focus on migration.

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Salvini, who is also deputy premier and the leader of the anti-immigrant League party, called on France to apologise and said he was not prepared to take criticism from a country which regularly stopped migrants on their shared border.

France tried to take a more conciliatory tone on Wednesday.

"I am happy about the good cooperation that we want to develop between Rome, Vienna and Berlin - I think it marks very sensible cooperation that will contribute to reducing illegal migration to Europe", said Kurz, whose country assumes the EU's rotating presidency on July 1.

That has put pressure on Italy and Greece, the entry points for the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty.

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Salvini also demanded that France make good on its pledge to relocate migrants under a 2015 European Union scheme that never fully got off the ground. Across the European Union, only a third of the 98,255 migrants that were supposed to be relocated under the scheme had been relocated by the time it ended a year ago.

629 migrants boarding rescue vessel "Aqarius" in the Mediterranean.

Reflecting on Macron's accusations that the Italian government was "irresponsible" for denying entry to the Aquarius vessel, stranded in global waters with hundreds of migrants onboard, Borghezio, a politician from Italy's Northern League party, explained that Rome may have not opened its ports, but it provided "full humanitarian assistance" to those aboard.

- Winfield reported from Rome.

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