United Nations envoy: Italy’s rejection of migrant ship ‘shameful

Matteo Salvini emmanuel Macron

GETTYMatteo Salvini's decision to block a migrant ship docking in Italy has been criticised by France

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told Wednesday's Corriere Della Sera newspaper that ships belonging to foreign organisations and flying foreign flags could not dictate Italy's immigration policy.

The French government was more conciliatory Wednesday, when the Foreign Ministry said France recognized the burden Italy has carried.

Salvini, who is also deputy premier and the leader of the anti-immigrant Lega 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 countries' two economy ministers also spoke by telephone, French finance ministry official said, and agreed to reschedule their cancelled meeting.

A French presidential source said the country had not received any formal demand from Italy for an apology.

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

The meeting, scheduled for Friday in Paris, was jeopardized on Wednesday, after the French president slammed Italian government for a "cynical" response to the migrant ship crisis.

The issue of how to share the migrant burden is expected to dominate an European Union summit at the end of June.

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How Europe should 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, remains a vexed question. Euronews reporter Anelise Borges is on board and has the latest on the situation.

France was to have accepted a total of 19,714 migrants from Italy and Greece; in all, it accepted 4,677.

United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi urged the European Union on Wednesday to sort out its "shameful" refugee policy after both Italy and Malta turned away a ship carrying hundreds of migrants.

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.

"Closing ports, whoever does it, threatens rescue at sea, as we have seen in the case of the Aquarius, and therefore is not the right solution", UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told reporters in Geneva. We need to talk to Italy, this is a big partner, a big neighbor...

An Italian coast guard ship carrying more than 900 Libyan migrants docked in Sicily Wednesday, just barely after the Rome government rejected entry to a boatload of others.

The number of migrants arriving in Italy began plummeting a year ago after the Italian government under the centre-left Democratic Party negotiated controversial deals with Libya that beefed up its capacity to better patrol its coasts and discouraged land-based smugglers.

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