Pope says countries must unite on migration, as Italy, France clash

15 June, 2018, 00:45 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
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French President Emmanuel Macron accused Italy's new populist government of "cynicism and irresponsibility" for closing its ports to the 629 migrants.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed they will meet in Paris on Friday, after the Italian premier threatened to cancel the meeting amid a tense diplomatic row over migration. Muscat highlighted however that Malta was willing to help avoid humanitarian crises.

The Spanish authorities then said they were ready to let the Aquarius dock in one of their eastern ports.

In a thinly-veiled reference to comments made earlier that day by Italy's hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Mr Macron urged the two sides not to "give in to emotions that certain people are manipulating".

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.

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"It's very clear that Europe needs to reform its asylum system in a collective manner; there's a lot of resistance to that but there's no other way", Grandi said.

France sought to take a more conciliatory tone on Wednesday.

Macron and Conte "confirmed the commitment of France and Italy to organising rescues within the rules on the humanitarian protection of people in danger", the statement said in reference to migrants making the risky Mediterranean crossing from Libya. German aid group Sea-Watch said the migrants were picked up after their rubber dinghy sank and the Navy also had recovered the bodies of 12 people.

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

Conte said he and Macron "agreed on the need to cooperate closely" on migration issues.

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It added that Italy was waiting for French to take action to "heal the situation that has been created".

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

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.

Under EU rules, migrants must apply for asylum in the European country where they first arrive.

Francis didn't refer to the dispute in his message, but he echoed Italy's longstanding complaint that it has largely been left alone to cope with the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have landed on its shores in recent years.

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Salvini also demanded that France make good on its pledge to relocate migrants under a 2015 European Union scheme that never fully got off the ground.

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