Af­ter re­ject­ing boat with 600 mi­grants, Italy takes an­other car­ry­ing 900

Daily Mail - - News - By Mario Led­with Brussels Correspondent

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

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