After rejecting boat with 600 migrants, Italy takes another carrying 900
ITALY yesterday demanded that France open its borders to 9,000 asylum- seekers as a diplomatic row between the two countries escalated.
French president Emmanuel Macron said the decision by Italy’s new hard-line government to turn away a charity rescue boat was ‘cynical and irresponsible’.
But Rome struck back by freezing diplomatic relations with Paris and calling for Mr Macron to take care of migrants who have landed in Italy.
The row came as an Italian coastguard vessel, the Diciotti, landed in Sicily yesterday carrying 937 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean as they tried to reach the EU. Meanwhile, the charity boat Aquarius, which had been turned away by Italy, headed for Spain.
The Diciotti was also carrying the corpses of two people who died during the voyage, a woman and a teenage boy.
Thirteen of the passengers who disembarked in Catania were pregnant and 208 were minors. The passengers were from Eritrea, Sudan, Mali, Ivory Coast and Guinea. During the voyage to Sicily, four pregnant women and a man suffering from fever were evacuated urgently and taken to hospitals.
The Aquaris is due to arrive at the Spanish port of Valencia on Saturday. Madrid offered to accept the charity boat, carrying 629 migrants including pregnant women and children, after it was left stranded in the Mediterranean because of Italy’s decision to close its ports. Charity workers said the decision to send the boat on the lengthy journey meant other migrants from Africa were ‘dying under our eyes’.
Matteo Salvini, Italy’s hard-line deputy prime minister, led the attack on France yesterday by demanding an apology and criticising its approach to migration.
He said that France committed to accepting 9,816 migrants under a 2015 EU redistribution scheme to relieve frontline Mediterranean countries of the pressure of asylum-seekers, but has only accepted 640 people in three years. Mr Salvini said Mr Macron should accept the full contingent ‘tomorrow morning… as a sign of concrete generosity and not just words’.
He added that France had refused to let in 10,249 migrants trying to enter from Italy between January and May this year.
Safe: Italian Red Cross staff play with children rescued by the Diciotti, right
Join the queue: Migrants wait to disembark from the Diciotti in Sicily yesterday