Italy economy minister cancels Paris meeting over migrant spat

Italy economy minister cancels Paris meeting over migrant spat

The vessel is on its way to Valencia, Spain - following Italy's decision to close its ports to the migrants rescued this past weekend in the Mediterranean Sea.

Italy demanded an apology after the French president accused the new Italian government of irresponsible behavior for refusing entry to a rescue ship with 629 migrants aboard.

"We have nothing to learn about generosity, voluntarism, welcoming, and solidarity from anyone", far-right Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told the Senate.

The migrant rescue ship that was rejected by the Italian government has been rerouted on its way to Spain because of bad weather.

Earlier in the day, the Italian Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the French ambassador to complain that the French comments about the Aquarius were "unacceptable". The EU plan, which was meant to relieve pressure on Italy and Greece, has largely flopped, with only a handful of countries receiving their share of newcomers.

"We're doing a lot but it's true: Europe must do more and must do better to help Italy", she said.

Salvini, who last week said he would not allow Italy to become Europe's "refugee camp", told the Senate he was open to a possible "axis" with Germany and Austria ahead of a key European Union summit at the end of June that will consider possible changes to asylum law to better share the burden of incoming migrants.

More than 700,000 migrants have landed on Italian shores since 2013, and Mr Salvini has repeatedly said that Italy can not continue to cope with the burden alone.

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

SOS Mediterranee, the aid group that operates the Aquarius, said Thursday the Italian coast guard boat leading the convoy chose to skirt Sardinia's east coast after high waves caused exhausted migrants aboard to be seasick.

"We believe an axis of the willing is needed to fight illegal migration". However, the source added that Macron was not "taking back anything".

Italy's new government is demanding other countries take rescued migrants.

More than 1.8 million people have entered Europe since 2014, with more than 600,000 arriving in Italy.

Under the EU's asylum laws - now the subject of a major political dispute and under revision - migrants must apply for asylum in the country where they first enter Europe.

A Dutch-flagged humanitarian ship, the Sea Watch 3, had offered to take them on board, but not without a written guarantee from the coastguard that it will be allowed to dock in an Italian port, which it did not receive.

That has put pressure on Italy and Greece, the entry points for the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty.

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