More than 900 rescued refugees arrive in Sicily

15 June, 2018, 00:43 | Author: Kim Reid
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The ship, escorted by two Italian vessels, is not expected to dock on the Italian island as it continues its journey to Valencia, Spain, where authorities have offered safe harbour for the 629 people the boat rescued from the Mediterranean last weekend.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, of the anti-immigrant League, has spearheaded a hardline stand on curbing arrivals from across the Mediterranean as a priority for the new populist coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

Spain stepped in and said the migrants could land at the port of Valencia.

Italy's argument with France came after Macron on Tuesday blasted what he called Italy's cynicism and irresponsibility in turning away the Aquarius.

Macron said he "had not made any comment meant to offend Italy and the Italian people", the statement said.

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"I am happy about the good cooperation that we want to develop between Rome, Vienna and Berlin - I think it marks very sensible cooperation that will contribute to reducing illegal migration to Europe", said Kurz, whose country assumes the EU's rotating presidency on July 1.

This comes as the Italian government has urged its European counterparts to take in more asylum seekers.

He also said that between January and May, France had sent back to Italy 10,249 migrants who had crossed their common border. German aid group Sea-Watch said the migrants were picked up after their rubber dinghy sank and the Navy also had recovered the bodies of 12 people.

More than 1.8 million people have entered Europe irregularly since 2014 and Italy is now sheltering some 170,000 asylum seekers. 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. Kurz said Europe needed an "axis of the willing in the fight against illegal migration". However, the source added that Macron was not "taking back anything".

Salvini has repeatedly accused fellow European Union members of abandoning Italy as it struggles to cope with an influx of migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

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It took on 400 others that were saved by Italy's coast guard.

Under EU rules, migrants must apply for asylum in the European nation where they first arrive.

Francis didn't refer to the dispute in his message, but he echoed Italy's longstanding complaint that it has largely been left alone to cope with the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have landed on its shores in recent years.

Salvini has accused European aid groups of essentially operating taxi services for Libya-based human traffickers and said Italy will now refuse their rescue ships entry.

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