Italian premier to meet Macron amid migrant row

Aaron Brown
June 16, 2018

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

"It seems to me that their arrival is expected Saturday without problems", he added.

On Tuesday French President Emmanuel Macron accused Italy of "irresponsibility" after the Rome government refused to open its ports to the NGO Aquarius ship carrying hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean.

Mr Salvini called on Mr Macron to apologise.

"It is unacceptable that people who have literally been picked out of the water, who have seen their friends drowning, still do not get a place of safety", Johannes Bayer, the Sea-Watch chairman, said in a statement Wednesday.

"One should never give in to emotion, which is manipulated by some people", Macron told reporters, according to the broadcaster BFMTV.

"I ask President Macron to pass from words to action and tomorrow morning welcome the 9,816 France promised to welcome as a sign of concrete generosity and not just words", Salvini said in a speech to Italy's parliament.

The pair are set to meet Friday in Paris for talks, including on migration.

The Aquarius has no showers or sinks for migrants on the ship, and the rescue workers rely on disinfectant spray to use for people's hands before their meals.

"The EU's own survival depends on the handling of migration", Antonio Tajani tweeted, calling it "the biggest challenge of our times".

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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. "We need to maintain dialogue", a source close to Macron said as the president visited the western town of Rochefort. Kurz said Europe needed an "axis of the willing in the fight against illegal migration".

The contentious issue of how to deal with migrants is expected to dominate an European Union summit at the end of June.

Most of the over 600 migrants who are on board the Aquarius have been transferred to the escort vessels.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini opposed taking in the refugees and said Malta should accept them.

Under the EU's asylum laws - now the subject of a major political dispute and under revision - migrants must apply for asylum in the country where they first enter Europe.

France's foreign ministry responded by saying that it is "perfectly aware" of the pressure on Italy as it copes with an influx of migrants from Africa, adding it is "committed to cooperation and dialogue" with Rome.

France tried to take a more conciliatory tone on Wednesday.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi attends an interview with Reuters at the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Italy dispatched two ships to assist the overcrowded Aquarius on Tuesday afternoon as it began its four-day voyage to Spain after the country's newly assembled government stepped up and offered to take in the survivors.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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