Published: Fri, June 15, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Italian premier to meet Macron amid migrant row

Italian premier to meet Macron amid migrant row

At the same time, the Aquarius vessel of the aid group SOS Mediterranee continued its days' long westward voyage to Spain, where it was rerouted after Italy and Malta refused it entry.

Italy summoned France's envoy on Wednesday and demanded an apology from President Emmanuel Macron, who had said Rome's move to block the migrant rescue ship from its ports was an act of "cynicism and irresponsibility".

The French leader's comments sparked a heated diplomatic row between the two countries, with Italy's newly elected Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte threatening to call off a meeting with Mr Macron due on Friday.

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.

Amid an escalation with France's president over the refusal to take in stranded migrants in the Mediterranean, Emmanuel Macron calling for "not giving in to emotion" and insists he's working with the government in Rome.

Macron said he "had not made any comment meant to offend Italy and the Italian people", the statement said.

But the talks were delayed as both countries traded barbs over the fate of more than 600 migrants rescued off the Libyan coast on the weekend.

Calvo said minors and women are a priority, especially those who may have been trafficked or exploited in their attempts to reach Europe.

European Union member states are deeply divided over how to deal with asylum seekers.

He also said that between January and May, France had sent back to Italy 10,249 migrants who had crossed their common border. The Aquarius was heading for Spain on Wednesday. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said France was "fully aware of the burden that the migration pressure is placing on Italy" and that it was committed to cooperating with Rome on immigration.

Italy's Conte later said on Facebook he would take to Paris "Italy's request for broad collaboration and solidarity on immigration at a European level". However, the source added that Macron was not "taking back anything".

"We believe an axis of the willing is needed to fight illegal migration", he said.

A Dutch-flagged humanitarian ship, the Sea Watch 3, had offered to take them on board, but not without a written guarantee from the coastguard that it will be allowed to dock in an Italian port, which it did not receive. In practice, the policy has placed a heavy burden on Italy and Greece, where hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers have arrived in recent years.

A boat loaded with 55 people who were thought to be Syrian refugees landed Wednesday on the northwest coast of Cyprus, a Mediterranean island split into ethnically Greek and Turkish sides.

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