"Shameful" handling of migrant ship shows need for European Union asylum reform

15 June, 2018, 01:42 | Author: Dustin Murphy
  • France is the third country in Europe in terms of asylum applications after Germany and Italy

The two leaders confirmed a lunch meeting for Friday to discuss "new initiatives" on immigration, a day after Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini announced an "axis" with Germany and Austria to fight illegal migration.

The number of migrants arriving in Italy began plummeting past year after the Italian government under the centre-left Democratic Party negotiated controversial deals with Libya that beefed up its capacity to better patrol its coasts and discouraged land-based smugglers.

Diverting the rescue ship to Spain - some four days' away, with poor weather forecast - keeps the Aquarius away from the area where its search-and-rescue capacity is most needed, in worldwide waters off the Libyan coast, putting other lives at risk.

The MEP also defended the approach of the sitting Italian minister of the interior, who denounced the "hypocrisy" of the French government, whose border with Italy is closed, in order to prevent migrants from crossing the Alps to reach France. The port is some 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) from where the ship had been on standby since Saturday night.

Italy's new populist government was quick to respond to the accusations denouncing "hypocritical lessons" from countries like France on migrants. "We need to maintain dialogue", a source close to Macron said as the president visited the western town of Rochefort.

A Dutch-flagged humanitarian ship, the Sea Watch 3, was called by a U.S. Navy vessel to take on board 41 survivors and 12 bodies recovered after a shipwreck on Tuesday. Stranding hundreds of people at sea is hardly polite.

Giuseppe Conte threatened to cancel meeting over French president's criticism of decision to block migrant vessel from docking in Italy.


The U.S. Sixth Fleet said it was co-ordinating with its partners on where the migrants will go next.

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

Macron's comments sparked a fierce response from Rome, which called them "unacceptable" and summoned France's ambassador Wednesday. The French president's office said France didn'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.

The Elysee said in a statement Thursday that Macron and Conte spoke by phone on Wednesday amid an escalating clash between the two countries over migration. Conte's office refused to confirm the report.

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

A boat loaded with 55 people who were thought to be Syrian refugees landed Wednesday on the northwest coast of Cyprus, a Mediterranean island split into ethnically Greek and Turkish sides.

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