Italy summons French envoy as migration dispute escalates

"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.

Salvini has accused European aid groups of essentially operating taxi services for Libya-based human traffickers, and has said Italy will now refuse them entry.

Far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini further raised the stakes suggesting a planned meeting between the two countries should be cancelled if France did not issue an "official apology".

Luigi Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S) that makes up Italy's new government alongside the League, minister of labour and, with Salvini, joint deputy prime minister, said that it was "embarrassing" that France "preached to us" as Italy is asking its European partners to share duties with Italy. The border crossing point at Ventimiglia has been the scene of protests and desperation for years as France has refused to let in migrants, many of whom are seeking to reach family in France or Germany.

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More than 900 people have arrived at the Italian port of Catania in Sicily after being rescued at sea by the Italian Coast Guard. The Aquarius was heading for Spain on Wednesday.

Successive governments have accused other European Union states have ignored pleas to take in some of the newcomers and share the cost of their care.

That has put pressure on Italy and Greece, the entry points for the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty.

This June 12, 2018 photo released Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by French NGO "SOS Mediterranee" shows migrants on the Aquarius ship after being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea.

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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.

Salvini's League campaigned during the March 4 national election on a strong anti-migrant agenda that included promises of mass expulsions of migrants already here.

The migrants saved by the Aquarius, run by French NGO SOS Méditerranée, were stuck on the overloaded ship for over 30 hours as Italy and Malta bickered over who should take them, before Spain stepped in and offered the port in Valencia as a place for the migrants to land in Europe.

"It's a relief for everyone, our teams and of course above all for the survivors to know that they are finally allowed to head to a safe port in Europe", Beau told reporters in Marseille, France.

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The furore comes after President Macron blasted Rome on Tuesday for closing its port to a ship with 629 migrants on board from attempting to enter the country.

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