Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

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

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

Italy's economy minister, Giovanni Tria, also cancelled a meeting with his counterpart in Paris, a day after French President Emmanuel Macron said Rome had acted with "cynicism and irresponsibility" by closing its ports to migrants.

The ship had been drifting in the central Mediterranean since Sunday, when both Italy and Malta closed their ports to it.

He has repeatedly accused charities of working with human traffickers but said Italy would not stop rescuing migrant boats itself. Italian maritime vessels, however, are still docking in its ports. 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.

Austria's conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who since December has led a coalition government with the anti-migration Freedom Party, proposed the idea Wednesday of an "axis of the willing" - made up of Rome, Vienna and Berlin - to co-operate in tackling illegal immigration. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said France was "fully aware of the burden that the migration pressure is placing on Italy" and that it was committed to cooperating with Rome on immigration.

On Wednesday morning, an Italian coast guard vessel with 937 migrants aboard docked in Catania, Sicily, as the Aquarius headed into increasingly rough seas on its way to Valencia, where it is due to arrive on Saturday.

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They were saved during several rescue operations off the coast of Libya.

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.

But Italy's foreign minister, Enzo Moavero, kept up the barrage by telling a French envoy that Macron's comments were "unjustifiable" and had compromised bilateral relations.

"Italy can not accept hypocritical lessons about migration from countries that have always preferred to look away", said a statement from the office of Premier Giuseppe Conte.

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

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Italy and Malta's actions flout worldwide maritime norms.

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.

A police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, told the Associated Press there were 54 men and one woman aboard the boat.

More than 1.8 million migrants have entered Europe since 2014.

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