Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

Italy accepts 900 migrants but 600 more continue onto Spain

Jean Garcia | 14 June, 2018, 03:13

An Italian coastguard ship carrying more than 900 migrants was allowed to dock in Sicily Wednesday, after Italy controversially turned away a separate foreign vessel with rescued migrants on board.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that Italy was "cynical and irresponsible" over the migrant vessel which had been left stranded in the Mediterranean after Italy and Malta refused to grant it permission to dock.

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

Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi summoned the ambassador to a morning meeting "following the statements made yesterday in Paris on the Aquarius affair", his ministry said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

Spain finally ended the deadlock Monday by saying the ship could land at its port of Valencia, with its arrival expected later this week.

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

Hours later, the Italian government said it could not "take hypocritical lessons from countries who have always preferred to look the other way on immigration issues".

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.

"I fear a major tragedy if states start refusing to accept rescued migrants", director general William Lacy Swing said.

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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.

The country has seen more than 700,000 migrants arrive on its shores since 2013.

Luigi Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S) that makes up Italy's new government alongside the League, minister of labour and, with Salvini, joint deputy prime minister, said that it was "embarrassing" that France "preached to us" as Italy is asking its European partners to share duties with Italy.

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.

He demanded that France move from "words to action and offer a sign of generosity" by taking more in.

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 Diciotti ship arrived at the port of Catania and the migrants began to disembark, an AFP photographer saw.

"We have put a stop to the NGOs".

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