Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

France, Italy leaders meet Friday amid clash over migration

France, Italy leaders meet Friday amid clash over migration

This week, Italian and Maltese officials denied entry for the Aquarius, a ship carrying more than 600 Libyan migrants.

Italy, which is pursuing a hard-line policy on immigration, closed its ports to the refugees of Aquarius, saying that Malta was the closest and safest port to accommodate the vessel. Spain finally granted the boat permission to dock in Valencia.

Macron told ministers in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday the Italian government had acted cynically and irresponsibly in its refusal to welcome the Aquarius, according to French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux.

"Such statements are undermining relations between Italy and France", Italy's foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, architect of this drama, crowed that "It pays off to raise one's voice politely".

French President Emmanuel Macron criticized what he called Italy's cynicism and irresponsibility in turning away the Aquarius, which is operated by SOS Mediterranee and the French-founded Doctors Without Borders.

"If an official apology doesn't arrive, Prime Minister (Giuseppe) Conte would be right not to go to France", Salvini told reporters.

Meanwhile, France said Wednesday it regretted Tria's decision to cancel the meeting and remained "committed to cooperation and dialogue" with Rome. "Italy is right to say that this has to be shared more widely".

Kurz said Europe needed an "axis of the willing in the fight against illegal migration".

Previously French Minister for European Affairs Nathalie Loiseau stated, that despite the conflict, both leaders had held a "sincere talk" on Wednesday and Paris still wanted Conte to visit France.

Salvini also accused France of having turned back 10,249 migrants at Italy's northern border since January, "including women, children and disabled people".

He demanded that France move from "words to action and offer a sign of generosity" by taking more in.

"Europe must stick together", she said, acknowledging Italy's concern that it had taken in many migrants but fellow European Union countries were not showing sufficient solidarity.

Salvini has accused European aid groups of essentially operating taxi services for Libya-based human traffickers, and has said Italy will now refuse their rescue ships entry.

"We have put a stop to the NGOs".

"For me, the question of how we deal with the migration question is something of a litmus test for the future and the unity of Europe, and the interests of every country must be considered", she said.

On Wednesday morning, an Italian coast guard vessel with 937 migrants aboard docked in Catania, Sicily, as the Aquarius headed into increasingly rough seas on its way to Valencia, where it is due to arrive on Saturday.

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