Police clear out two more migrant camps in Paris
French police began on Monday to clear out two illegal refugee camp sites in Paris, following a similar operation last week, in the government's latest attempt to deal with a migrant influx that France has been facing for the past three years. A statement from the Paris police department said authorities were in the process of clearing out two illegal refugee campsites at the Porte des Poissonniers, in northeast Paris, and another site next to the city's Canal Saint Martin.Last week, authorities had cleared out around 1,000 migrants from the larger "Millenaire" camp, also in northeast Paris.
Italy said on Wednesday its decision to shut its ports to hundred of migrants aboard a charity ship was firm, as a clash between Rome and Paris over migrant policy heated up.
"We will not change (our position) on ships belonging to non-governmental organizations," Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said in an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
"Ships belonging to foreign organizations and flying foreign flags cannot dictate Italy's immigration policy," said Salvini, who is also head of the anti-immigrant League.
Call to help find missing migrants as Italy, Malta refuse rescue ship
The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) launched an initiative in Rome on Monday to help find missing migrants in the Mediterranean, a day after Italy and Malta refused to allow a rescue boat carrying 629 migrants to dock in its ports. Representatives from Italy, Malta, Greece and Cyprus met to discuss ways to better locate and identify missing migrants -- at the same time the Aquarius rescue ship, carrying migrants including children and pregnant women, was left stranded at sea for two days --- until Spain mid-Monday said it would allow it to dock at the port of Valencia.
Since Sunday, when both Italy and Malta refused to let them dock, some 629 migrants, including 11 children and seven pregnant women, have been in the central Mediterranean aboard the Aquarius.
Some of the migrants on the overcrowded Aquarius, who are mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, were moved onto to two Italian ships from the navy and coastguard and are headed for the port of Valencia, Spain.
The episode, coming a week after the installation of Italy's new populist government, has heightened tensions within the European Union over migration.
While Spain adopted a diplomatic tone with Italy when it announced it would take the migrants, relations between Rome and Paris have deteriorated in an explosion of accusations and counter-accusations.
Italy accepts 900 migrants but 600 more continue onto Spain
An Italian coast guard vessel has docked in Sicily with more than 900 migrants aboard, evidence that Italy's new anti-migrant government is still taking in some asylum-seekers but is forcing the rest of Europe to accept others. Crew aboard the Diciotti began disembarking passengers in Catania's port early Wednesday. At the same time, the Aquarius vessel of the aid group SOS Mediterranee continued its dayslong westward voyage to Spain, where it was rerouted after Italy and Malta refused it entry.
French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the decision to block the Aquarius, operated by the Franco-German charity SOS Mediterranne, saying international law obligated Italy to take in the migrants.
"There is a degree of cynicism and irresponsibility in the Italian government's behavior with regard to this dramatic humanitarian situation," government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux quoted Macron as telling his cabinet.
Gabriel Attal, a spokesman for Macron's party, told Public Senat TV: "The Italian position makes me vomit."
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who is due to meet Macron in Paris this Friday, shot back.
"Italy cannot accept hypocritical lessons from countries that have always preferred to turn their backs when it comes to immigration," Conte said in a statement.
Tensions between Italy, France heat up as migrant ship diverted to Spain
Italy summoned the French ambassador and demanded an apology as it ramped up its standoff with Paris over migration on Wednesday. The new populist Italian government challenged France to take in more asylum seekers after French President Emmanuel Macron accused them of cynical, irresponsible behavior for refusing entry of a rescue ship with hundreds of migrants on board.In addition to summoning the French diplomat, Italy also canceled a planned between the countries’ finance ministers and warned that diplomatic relations have been compromised.
The situation escalated on Wednesday morning when Rome's foreign ministry summoned the French ambassador for an explanation of Macron's comments.
"If the French have the humility to say they are sorry, we can put it behind us and be friends like before," Salvini told reporters on the sidelines of a business conference.
Also on Wednesday morning, an Italian coast guard vessel with 937 migrants aboard docked in Catania, Sicily.
Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said the fact that migrants rescued by Italian ships were landing in Italy showed that the government was not "inhumane or xenophobic".
Italy has taken in more than 640,000 mainly African migrants and refugees over the past five years. Other EU states have largely ignored pleas by Rome to take in some of the newcomers and share the cost of their care.
Several EU countries have, however, housed migrants who entered the bloc via other routes, with Germany admitting more than a million people in recent years.
Salvini's League scored its best-ever result in March national elections, partly on pledges to deport hundreds of thousands of migrants and halt the flow of newcomers, and has formed a coalition with the anti-system 5-Star Movement.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Toby Chopra)
Migrant rescue vessels suspend operations after Italian intervention .
Amid the ongoing controversy over immigration, the owners of two rescue boats say Italy has forced them to stop operating. One of the boats, the Lifeline, has 224 people on board whom it rescued off the coast of Libya. Italy says it will seize the Lifeline for violating international law.The other, the Seefuchs, or Sea Fox, docked in Malta after Italy questioned its registration.The boats are operated by German nongovernmental organizations. Operators insist they are registered in the Netherlands, which has denied responsibility for them.