Migrant ship carrying more than 900 people docks in Sicily

Casey Dawson
June 15, 2018

This after French President Emmanuel Macron said Rome had acted with "cynicism and irresponsibility" by closing its ports to migrants.

Italy's foreign ministry on Wednesday said it had summoned the French ambassador amid a diplomatic spat between the two countries over the handling of a migrant crisis.

Italy escalated its quarrel with France over migration Wednesday, challenging the bordering country to take in more asylum-seekers and demanding an apology after the French president accused the new Italian government of irresponsible behaviour for refusing entry to a rescue ship with hundreds of migrants aboard. Meanwhile, an Italian coast guard ship with more than 900 migrants on board has docked this morning in the Sicilian port of Catania.

Lashing out at the French government, Salvini said France had taken in only a fraction of the 9,816 migrants it had pledged to accept under a 2015 European Union relocation plan.

The vessel Diciotti had picked up migrants off the coast of Libya and was allowed at Sicily because it was an Italian ship on a government mission.

Italy's new populist government came under fire Tuesday from its European Union neighbours after refusing to let a foreign NGO boat carrying 629 mostly African migrants dock in Italy.

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

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Macron are due to hold talks on Friday ahead of the European summit on at the end of the month, with a particular focus on migration.

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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 Aquarius, a search and rescue ship carrying 630 migrants and had been stranded in the Mediterranean since Sunday, is now making its four day journey to Spain, CNN reports.

France sought to take a more conciliatory tone on Wednesday.

The port of Valencia is some 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) from where the vessel had been on standby. He declared his support for Kurz's proposal for a three-way "axis of the willing" with Italy to fight illegal migration.

"The coastguard and navy can continue to save lives, but other countries need to keep giving us a hand", he said.

But Italy's foreign minister, Enzo Moavero, kept up the barrage by telling a French envoy that Macron's comments were "unjustifiable" and had compromised bilateral relations.

Macron's office said Tuesday that France doesn't want to "start a precedent" that would allow some European countries to breach worldwide laws and rely on other EU member states to take in migrants. However, the source added that Macron was not "taking back anything".

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