Italy and France trade insults as migration row boils over

UN:

The Aquarius, a search and rescue ship carrying 630 migrants and had been stranded in the Mediterranean since Sunday, is now making its four day journey to Spain, CNN reports.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has confirmed that he would meet with the French president despite the latter's having earlier slammed the Italian government for its "cynical" response to the migrant ship crisis.

On Monday, Spain said that it would be welcoming the Aquarius and allowing it to dock in Valencia.

French President Emmanuel Macron accused Italy's government of "cynicism and irresponsibility".

Pope Francis called on Thursday for a "change in mindset" on migration policies, saying global cooperation was vital, as Italy and France engaged in a diplomatic spat over the issue.

A French presidential source said the country had not received any formal demand from Italy for an apology.

"It's very clear that Europe needs to reform its asylum system in a collective manner; there's a lot of resistance to that but there's no other way", Grandi said.

Macron and Conte "confirmed the commitment of France and Italy to organising rescues within the rules on the humanitarian protection of people in danger", the statement said in reference to migrants making the unsafe Mediterranean crossing from Libya.

"Ships belonging to foreign organisations and flying foreign flags can not dictate Italy's immigration policy", Salvini, who also heads the anti-immigrant League party, said on Wednesday.

Despite criticism from the pope and the United Nations refugee agency, which called the treatment of the migrants on the Aquarius "shameful", Salvini has not changed his position.

"Such statements are undermining relations between Italy and France", Italy's foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday. Kurz said Europe needed an "axis of the willing in the fight against illegal migration".

A European Union summit later in June is due to consider changes to asylum law to better share the burden of incoming migrants.

More than 1.8 million migrants have arrived in Europe since 2014, and Italy is now sheltering more than 170,000 asylum seekers, as well as an estimated 500,000 unregistered migrants.

The migrants are traveling from the central Mediterranean Sea aboard the Aquarius, a rescue vessel operated by aid group SOS Mediterranee, and two boats of the Italian government.

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

Italian maritime vessels, however, are still docking in its ports: on Wednesday, an Italian coast guard vessel docked in Catania, Sicily with 932 migrants aboard. In practice, this has placed a heavy burden on Italy and Greece, where hundreds of thousands of people have entered in recent years.

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