Italy, France call for European Union migrant centres in Africa

17 Juin, 2018, 02:56 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Tiphaine Auzière Brigitte Macron's daughter wearing an En Marche jumper a campaign meeting ahead of Emmanuel Macron's election victory

Salvini, who has emerged as the most outspoken member of Italy's two-week-old government, said on Facebook that two other foreign NGO ships, the Lifeline and the Seefuchs, were off the coast of Libya waiting to pick up migrants abandoned by human traffickers.

The statement said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez "appreciated the cooperation of (French) President (Emmanuel) Macron and believes this is the framework of cooperation that Europe should use to respond" to immigration on the continent.

So far this year, 44,570 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe and 792 have perished en route, according to the UN's International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

"So, if Austria, Hungary and some others, thanks to these special contacts, can provide more of the solidarity that Italy needs, it's very good news for Italy and for everyone", Macron said.

In Germany, Angela Merkel is fighting to save her conservative coalition government in a heated battle over immigration while also trying to push other European Union member states to show more solidarity on the issue of distributing refugees.

Mr Macron then expressed support for Mr Conte's call for Europe to reform its asylum system to distinguish between genuine refugees and economic migrants before they left Africa, in an attempt to promote European integration.

The Aquarius, operated by the aid group SOS Mediterranee, is making the 930-mile voyage to Spain accompanied by an Italian coast guard vessel, which has taken on board some of the migrants.

Spain's foreign minister Josep Borrell said he hoped the spectacle of the migrants - mostly Africans, including pregnant women and scores of children - would "move" other European states into showing more solidarity.

The influx has encouraged the rise of far-right and populist parties - leading most recently to an anti-migrant coalition government taking power in Italy.

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"We need to consolidate the concept of the European border".

Amid the quarrel this week, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz proposed an "axis of the willing" to tackle the problem of illegal migration.

The spat nearly resulted in the cancellation of a planned meeting on Thursday between Macron and Italy's new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

In Italy's case, the arrival of more than 640,000 mainly-African migrants over the past five years has fanned support for anti-immigration parties such as Lega, while centrist politicians have pleaded for other European Union member states to help ease the burden.

Rome also summoned the French ambassador over the dispute - the second time it has done so over the migrant crisis in two months.

The French leader, who has taken a hard line on migration from African countries that are not at war, said Thursday that "none of his comments were meant to offend Italy and the Italian people".

This has placed a significant burden in recent years on the countries where most undocumented migrants arrive.

Italy itself has appeared eager to avoid too harsh a response. It is due to arrive in Valencia on Sunday. Trenton waited four days before being allowed to dock in Sicily.

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