Mi­grant aid ship on way to Spain as Italy, France spar

Houston Chronicle - - NATION | WORLD -

ROME — Italy es­ca­lated its quar­rel with France over mi­gra­tion Wed­nes­day, chal­leng­ing the bor­der­ing coun­try to take in more asy­lum-seek­ers and de­mand­ing an apol­ogy after the French pres­i­dent ac­cused the new Ital­ian govern­ment of ir­re­spon­si­ble be­hav­ior for re­fus­ing en­try to a res­cue ship with hun­dreds of mi­grants aboard.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Mat­teo Salvini chided French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron by name dur­ing a speech be­fore Par­lia­ment’s up­per cham­ber, while Ital­ian news re­ports said a meet­ing be­tween Macron and Ital­ian Premier Giuseppe Conte planned for Fri­day now was in doubt.

“I speak in the name of a govern­ment, but I also have the aim of speak­ing for a peo­ple who have noth­ing to learn from any­one about gen­eros­ity, vol­un­teerism, wel­come and sol­i­dar­ity,” Salvini, the leader of the anti-mi­grant League party, said to ap­plause in the Se­nate cham­ber.

In other signs of the con­tin­u­ing clash, Italy sum­moned the French am­bas­sador for con­sul­ta­tions, can­celed a planned meet­ing be­tween fi­nance min­is­ters and warned that diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween the two Euro­pean Union mem­bers had been com­pro­mised.

Italy has re­ceived both crit­i­cism and praise for turn­ing away the Aquar­ius res­cue ship over the week­end as it made its way across the Mediter­ranean Sea car­ry­ing 629 mi­grants. Rome ar­gues that other Euro­pean coun­tries must share the work of wel­com­ing would-be asy­lum­seek­ers.

Two Ital­ian naval ves­sels are es­cort­ing the ship to Spain after the So­cial­ist govern­ment of new Prime Min­is­ter Pedro Sanchez of­fered the Aquar­ius safe har­bor Mon­day.

The Aquar­ius and two Ital­ian ships that took on some of the 629 pas­sen­gers are ex­pected to ar­rive in Va­len­cia on Satur­day night, weather con­di­tions per­mit­ting, said SOS Mediter­ra­nee co-founder So­phie Beau, whose char­ity op­er­ates the aid ship.

Lashing out at the French govern­ment, Salvini said France had taken in only a frac­tion of the 9,816 mi­grants it had pledged to ac­cept un­der a 2015 EU re­lo­ca­tion plan. The EU plan, which was in­tended to re­lieve pres­sure on Italy and Greece, has largely flopped, with only a hand­ful of coun­tries re­ceiv­ing their share of new­com­ers.

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