Published: Fri, June 15, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Spain fulfilled its commitments by accepting Aquarius migrant ship - deputy prime minister

Spain fulfilled its commitments by accepting Aquarius migrant ship - deputy prime minister

The incident prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to accuse Italy's new populist government of "cynicism and irresponsibility" for closing its ports to the 629 migrants.

Italy's move almost sparked a diplomatic row, with prime minister Giuseppe Conte considering postponing a meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron.

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

It was carrying 629 migrants and is heading to Spain, which has offered safe harbour, escorted by two Italian ships.

Annelise Borges, a journalist for Euronews and NBC who was on board the Aquarius tells CNN that "everyone is extremely hot and very exhausted".

Salvini has repeatedly accused fellow European Union members of abandoning Italy as it struggles to cope with migrants making the perilous journey from Africa across the Mediterranean.

Italy for years has complained that it has been left largely alone to manage Europe's migrant crisis, but the new government says its firm stance has finally gotten the point across.

More than 1.8 million people have entered Europe irregularly since 2014 and Italy is now sheltering some 170,000 asylum seekers.

France sought to take a more conciliatory tone on Wednesday.

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

Italy's new economy minister Giovanni Tria had been due to meet his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire in Paris Wednesday afternoon.

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On June 10, Italy refused to accept the ship Aquarius, carrying migrants rescued in the Mediterranean.

Macron's comments sparked a fierce response from Rome, which called them "unacceptable" and summoned France's ambassador Wednesday.

A government source said Conte still did not see the right "conditions" for a Friday meeting with Macron.

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

"We believe an axis of the willing is needed to fight illegal migration".

With xenophobia on the rise across the continent and hard-right parties either in government or riding high in the polls from Italy in the south to Sweden on the north, immigration has become an issue of existential importance for the bloc.

As EU politicians have dithered or traded blame, refugees have continued to arrive.

According to reports, the Italian Coast Guard brought supplies to the migrants, and two vessels are reportedly guiding the ship to Spain.

Lt. Cmdr. Zachary Harrell, a US 6th Fleet spokesman, said discussions were ongoing Thursday evening, two days after the Trenton rescued the survivors and also spotted 12 "unresponsive" people in the sea.

However, the Sea Watch is still waiting to pick them up after asking for a written guarantee that it will be allowed to dock in an Italian port.

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