Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
Finance | By Claude Patterson

Migration dispute escalates between France and Italy

Migration dispute escalates between France and Italy

Angrily rejecting French criticism of its immigration policies, Italy summoned the French ambassador on Wednesday and cancelled a planned meeting between the Italian economy minister and his counterpart in Paris.

In a speech to the senate on Wednesday, Matteo Salvini - who is also Italy's interior minister and head of the nationalist League party - said that France had only taken in 640 of the more than 9,000 people it had promised to take from Italy.

Salvini called on France to apologise and said he was not prepared to take criticism from a country that regularly stopped migrants on their shared border.

It is now en route to Valencia, escorted by Italian navy and coast guard units.

Euronews correspondent Anelise Borges is on board the vessel, which is expected to arrive in Valencia in four days.

The case has reopened one of the main unresolved faultlines in European politics: how to share responsibility for migrants trying to enter the bloc from conflict zones and poor countries, mainly across Africa and the Middle East. Salvini's League scored its best election result in March elections after pledging to deport an additional estimated 500,000 unregistered migrants.

France sought to take a more conciliatory tone on Wednesday.

Italy summoned the French ambassador to protest and demanded an official apology.

The countries' two economy ministers also spoke by telephone, French finance ministry official said, and agreed to reschedule their cancelled meeting.

But Italy's foreign minister, Enzo Moavero, kept up the barrage by telling a French envoy that Macron's comments were "unjustifiable" and had compromised relations between the two countries.

Salvini insisted Tuesday that the country's ports would no longer be open to foreign boats carrying migrants.

After meeting in Berlin, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer echoed Salvini.

"It's very clear that Europe needs to reform its asylum system in a collective manner; there's a lot of resistance to that but there's no other way", Grandi said. Spain stepped up and offered the Aquarius safe harbor after Italy and Malta both refused.

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.

Refugees have continued to arrive as politicians trade blame.

The Diciotti ship arrived at the port of Catania and the migrants began to disembark, an AFP photographer saw.

However, the Sea Watch is still waiting to pick them up, asking for a written guarantee that it will be allowed to dock in an Italian port.

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