Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

United Nations envoy: Italy’s rejection of migrant ship ‘shameful

United Nations envoy: Italy’s rejection of migrant ship ‘shameful

629 migrants were stranded on the high sees before Spain stepped in to take the ship, which was refused by both Italy and Malta.

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.

France's European Affairs minister Nathalie Loiseau on Thursday defended France's record on taking in migrants following criticism of Macron's initial silence on the plight of the Aquarius.

France claims it has received no formal request from Italy for an apology, believing the planned meeting between Macron and Conte would go ahead. The French president's office said France didn't want to "start a precedent" that would allow some European countries to breach global laws and rely on other EU member states to take in migrants.

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

The line Italy drew with the Aquarius appeared to be a tactic by the populist government sworn in this month to force Europe's hand at a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels set for June 28-29.

"Such statements are undermining relations between Italy and France", Italy's foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

"It is shameful. As a European, I felt shame - shame - that there was a boat - there is a boat - in the Mediterranean, and for several days nobody wanted to take these people", he said Wednesday, as the migrant-packed vessel rejected by Italy was on its way to Spain.

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On Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz hailed cooperation between the hardline interior ministers of Austria, Germany and Italy on the question of migrants.

But he stressed that "the reason why Italy said it had closed ports is something we need to listen to".

Salvini has accused charities that rescue migrants of working with human traffickers but said Italy would not stop rescuing migrant boats itself.

The Spanish port of Valencia's spokesperson told Sputnik on Wednesday that the rescue vessel, as well as Italian Coast Guard and naval ships, carrying over 600 migrants, could enter the Spanish port of Valencia late on Saturday. In practice, the policy has placed a heavy burden on Italy and Greece, where hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers have arrived in recent years. "[Conte's] visit is now neither confirmed nor canceled, but we would like him to arrive", Loiseau told Europe 1 radio.

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The U.N. refugee agency has said that approximately 1,900 migrants came to Cyprus in about 40 boat trips since 2015.

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