French, German Leaders Urge 'European Response' To Migrant Crisis
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France Ready to Accept Migrants From Aquarius Ship Amid Standoff With Italy
15 June 2018, 12:43 | Bernice Figueroa
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French President Emmanuel Macron sought to defuse tension with Italy after it criticized its refusal to accept more than 600 migrants on board the Aquarius ship earlier this week, telling the Italian leader no offense was meant. Muscat highlighted however that Malta was willing to help avoid humanitarian crises.
On Monday, Spain said that it would be welcoming the Aquarius and allowing it to dock in Valencia.
French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the block on the Aquarius, insisting that Italy should have taken the migrants in.
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.
Calvo said minors and women are a priority, especially those who may have been trafficked or exploited in their attempts to reach Europe.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte - who is due to meet Macron in Paris on Friday - "would be right not to go to France" should such an apology not arrive.
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. 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.
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.
Conte said he and Macron "agreed on the need to cooperate closely" on migration issues.
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.
The U.N. refugee agency's chief, Italian national Filippo Grandi, told Reuters it was "shameful" that two European countries refused to take in vulnerable migrants.
It added that Italy was waiting for French to take action to "heal the situation that has been created".
Under the EU's asylum laws - now the subject of a major political dispute and under revision - migrants must apply for asylum in the country where they first enter Europe.
An Italian coast guard vessel has docked in Sicily with more than 900 migrants aboard, evidence that Italy's new anti-migrant government is still taking in some asylum-seekers but is forcing the rest of Europe to accept others. In practice, the policy has placed a heavy burden on Italy and Greece, where hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers have arrived in recent years.
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