Macron speaks with Italian PM to defuse migrant boat row: Elysee

Macron speaks with Italian PM to defuse migrant boat row: Elysee

Italian Economy Minister Giovanni Tria has canceled a meeting scheduled on Wednesday with his French counterpart due to tensions between the two countries over immigration, an Italian economy ministry source said.

United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi urged the European Union on Wednesday to sort out its "shameful" refugee policy after both Italy and Malta turned away a ship carrying hundreds of migrants.

Italy has challenged France to take in more asylum seekers and demanded an apology after French president Emmanuel Macron accused its government of cynical behaviour.

"The French act superior but they have pushed back more than 10,000 people at the borders with Italy".

"France says that we are cynical but between January 1 and May 31 it turned back 10,249 people at the border, including women and disabled children, " Salvini stated.

In Geneva, the head of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, also Italian, said Wednesday Italy was "right" to say it could not accept all the migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

"If an official apology doesn't arrive, Prime Minister (Giuseppe) Conte would be right not to go to France", Salvini told reporters.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Grandi said the European Union can expect more such incidents in coming weeks as long as it remains divided on its policies toward migrants and refugees.

France is "perfectly aware" of the pressure on Italy as it copes with an influx of migrants from Africa, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

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Italy's rejection of a migrant ship is shameful but the responsibility lies with Europe as a whole, United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi told Reuters on Wednesday. Italy for years has complained that it has been left largely alone to manage Europe's migrant crisis, but the new government says its tactics have finally gotten the point across. Kurz said Europe needed an "axis of the willing in the fight against illegal migration".

Salvini has repeatedly vowed to stem the flow of migrants to Italy, which has seen more than 700,000 arrive on its shores since 2013.

Macron and Conte also vowed to respect worldwide maritime laws related to humanitarian aid of stranded migrants.

France sought to take a more conciliatory tone on Wednesday.

Salvini insisted Tuesday that the country's ports would no longer be open to foreign boats carrying migrants.

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

"We have put a stop to the NGOs".

Speaking at a conference on migration at the Vatican, the pope said countries must work together and "move from considering others as threats to our comfort to valuing them as persons whose life experience and values can contribute greatly to the enrichment of our society".

The rescue ship, run by French charity SOS Mediterranee, has since transferred hundreds of the migrants to two Italian vessels, and the convoy is sailing across the Mediterranean to the Spanish port of Valencia.

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