Italy summons French envoy as migration row escalates

Cornelia Mascio
Giugno 14, 2018

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.

But Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini - leader of Lega, the anti-migrant party which formed a coalition with Conte's Five Star Movement - said he wanted an apology from the French President.

"The visit was canceled at Italy's request, and we regret it", the French source said, adding France had a lot of ground to cover with newly-appointed Tria. At the same time, the Aquarius vessel of the aid group SOS Mediterranee continued its dayslong westward voyage to Spain, where it was rerouted after Italy and Malta refused it entry. Catania was obliged to accept migrants rescued by the Italian Navy, as opposed to an NGO-operated ship.

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

The case touched on one of the main faultlines in European politics - how to share the responsibility of handling migrants trying to get into the bloc from war zones and poor countries, largely across Africa and the Middle East.

More than 1.8 million migrants have entered Europe since 2014, and Italy is now sheltering more than 170,000 asylum seekers, as well as an estimated 500,000 unregistered migrants.

Italy's new economy minister Giovanni Tria had been due to meet his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire in Paris Wednesday afternoon. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll saying it 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.

"The same can not be said of France, which has often adopted much more rigid and cynical immigration policies".

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 bilateral relations.

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

The chancellor said migration represented a significant challenge for Europe when it was in a "very fragile situation".

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

Grandi said that, even if the European Union succeeded in helping transit countries to manage the migrant flows before they arrive in Europe, "some people will continue to want to seek asylum in Europe".

"I speak in the name of a government but I also have the ambition of speaking for a people who have nothing to learn from anyone about generosity, volunteerism, welcome and solidarity", he said.

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