Italian Minister Cancels France Trip After Migrant Ship Row

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Angrily rejecting French criticism of its immigration policies, Italy summoned the French ambassador on Wednesday and cancelled a planned meeting between the Italian economy minister and his counterpart in Paris.

Italy's deputy prime minister called for an official apology before any further summits. He also said that in the five months to the end of May this year France had sent back to Italy 10,249 migrants who had crossed their common border.

"If an official apology doesn't arrive, prime minister Conte would be right not to go to France", Salvini told reporters after demanding that France take in more migrants.

"Our history of solidarity, humanity and welcoming spirit does not deserve to be criticised by members of the French government".

The French foreign ministry responded that Paris was "perfectly aware of the weight of migratory pressure on Italy and the efforts of this country".

"Nothing said by France has questioned this, nor the need to coordinate closely among Europeans", a spokesperson said.

The episode, coming a week after the installation of Italy's new anti-establishment government, has heightened tensions within the European Union over migration.

On Tuesday, Griveaux said the French government would not have allowed the Aquarius to dock at one of its ports.

"The same can not be said of France, which has often adopted much more rigid and cynical immigration policies".

Some 629 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, have been in the central Mediterranean since Sunday aboard the Aquarius, a vessel operated by SOS Méditerranée, a Franco-German charity that tries to rescue people making the risky crossing to Europe.

France's Finance Ministry hoped to shortly reschedule a meeting with Italian Economy Minister Giovanni Tria that was canceled in the midst of a row over immigration, a French government source said.

"I'm pleased that they [France] have discovered responsibility".

"With my German and Austrian colleagues. we will propose a new (immigration) initiative", Salvini said, adding that it would apply both to the EU's external borders and to how the bloc's countries manage migrants internally.

"I speak in the name of a government but I also have the ambition of speaking for a people who have nothing to learn from anyone about generosity, volunteerism, welcome and solidarity", he said.

It would also represent a complete reversal of the open-doors migrant policy she adopted in 2015, which saw more than 1 million migrants enter Germany and is seen as having fuelled a sharp rise in support for the rightwing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and caused deep rifts within her conservative bloc.

Under the EU's asylum laws - now the subject of revision amid a major political dispute - migrants must apply for asylum in the country where they first enter Europe. Kurz said Europe needed an "axis of the willing in the fight against illegal migration".

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