Shameful handling of migrant ship shows need for EU asylum reform

14 Juin, 2018, 03:15 | Auteur: Auguste Feret

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, of the anti-immigrant League, has spearheaded a hardline stand on curbing arrivals from across the Mediterranean as a priority for the new populist coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

"If an official apology doesn't arrive, prime minister Conte would be right not to go to France", Salvini told reporters after demanding that France take in more migrants.

France's Finance Ministry hoped to shortly reschedule a meeting with Italian Economy Minister Giovanni Tria that was canceled in the midst of a row over immigration, a French government source said.

"I speak in the name of a government but I also have the ambition of speaking for a people who have nothing to learn from anyone about generosity, volunteerism, welcome and solidarity", he said.

The co-founder of the SOS Mediterranee charity says three ships carrying 629 migrants are expected to arrive around Saturday night at the Spanish port of Valencia, depending on weather conditions.

Italy has defended its decision to refuse the Aquarius and its 600 passengers entry.

"The law is when a boat is in trouble it's the country and the port that's closest that provides the rescue", Le Drian said.

Salvini has accused European aid groups of essentially operating taxi services for Libya-based human traffickers, and has said Italy will now refuse them entry.

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The Diciotti was greeted in Catania's port by activists criticizing the new policy, with a banner draped at the port saying "Stop the attack on refugees".

On Wednesday Italy summoned the French ambassador after France's President Emmanuel Macron accused Italy of "irresponsibility" over its refusal to let the Aquarius dock.

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.

The M5S-League government says that current European Union rules, which require migrants to seek asylum wherever in Europe they first arrive, leave Italy and its southern neighbours bearing the brunt of mass migration across the Mediterranean. In practice, this has placed a heavy burden on Italy and Greece, where hundreds of thousands of people have entered in recent years.

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.

READ ALSO: What rules apply to migrants rescued at sea?

Salvini's League campaigned during the March 4 national election on a strong anti-migrant agenda that included promises of mass expulsions of migrants already here.

According to the latest figures, around 7000 migrants are stranded in Serbia.

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