Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
Markets | By Otis Pena

Italy summons French envoy as migration row escalates


"The statements concerning Aquarius from France are surprising", the Italian Council stressed, adding that Rome won't tolerate receiving "hypocritical lessons from countries that preferred to divert the head "on the migrant crisis".

It would also represent a complete reversal of the open-doors migrant policy she adopted in 2015, which saw more than 1 million migrants enter Germany and is seen as having fuelled a sharp rise in support for the rightwing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and caused deep rifts within her conservative bloc.

Many states have fallen short of their pledge, made in 2015, to take some asylum seekers from Italy and Greece - the first port of call for most migrants given their long Mediterranean coastlines - and share the cost of their care.

629 migrants were stranded on the high sees before Spain stepped in to take the ship, which was refused by both Italy and Malta.

"The Italian government has never abandoned the nearly 700 people aboard the Aquarius", it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mr Salvini told the Senate: "We have nothing to learn about generosity, voluntarism, welcoming, and solidarity from anyone".

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

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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz hailed Wednesday an "axis of the willing" between the hardline interior ministers of Austria, Germany and Italy to combat illegal immigration into the EU.

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

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.

Speaking to the senate Salvini said "he hoped for an official apology as soon as possible", from France.

Salvini, who is also deputy premier and the leader of the anti-immigrant League party, called on France to apologise and said he was not prepared to take criticism from a country which regularly stopped migrants on their shared border.

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.

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. "The coastguard and navy can continue to save lives, but other countries need to keep giving us a hand", he said. Italian maritime vessels, however, are still docking in its ports: on Wednesday, an Italian coast guard vessel docked in Catania, Sicily with 932 migrants aboard.

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