Migrant ship carrying more than 900 people docks in Sicily

Remigio Civitarese
Giugno 15, 2018

The migrants were stranded on the NGO vessel Aquarius until Spain said the ship could land at its port of Valencia.

Italy's controversial new interior minister has hit back at criticism of his migrants policy by the French government after he refused to allow 629 people on a charity ship to come ashore in Sicily.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Macron are due to hold talks on Friday ahead of the European summit on at the end of the month, with a particular focus on migration.

French President Emmanuel Macron did not mean to offend Italy with comments about the migrant crisis that have sparked a bitter diplomatic row, his office said Thursday (Jun 14).

Pope Francis called on Thursday for a "change in mindset" on migration policies, saying worldwide cooperation was vital, as Italy and France engaged in a diplomatic spat over the issue.

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. "The recognition of this fact is vitally important if we wish to give a concrete and dignified response to this humanitarian challenge", he said.

France, she said, had also taken the second-biggest share of migrants relocated from Greece and Italy.

More than 700,000 migrants have landed on Italian shores since 2013, and Mr Salvini has repeatedly said that Italy can not continue to cope with the burden alone.

The migrants are traveling from the central Mediterranean Sea aboard the Aquarius, a rescue vessel operated by aid group SOS Mediterranee, and two boats of the Italian government.

The French government was more conciliatory Wednesday, when the Foreign Ministry said France recognized the burden Italy has carried. "We need to maintain dialogue", a source close to Macron said as the president visited the western town of Rochefort.

Meanwhile, an Italian coast guard ship with more than 900 migrants on board has docked this morning in the Sicilian port of Catania.

Salvini has repeatedly accused fellow European Union members of abandoning Italy as it struggles to cope with an influx of migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. It coincided with growing tensions in Europe over Italy's refusal to let a migrant rescue ship dock, forcing other European countries to take them in.

Macron's office said Tuesday that France doesn't want to "start a precedent" that would allow some European countries to breach global laws and rely on other EU member states to take in migrants.

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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