France offers to take some Aquarius migrants

Tiphaine Auzière Brigitte Macron's daughter wearing an En Marche jumper a campaign meeting ahead of Emmanuel Macron's election victory

Under the EU's Dublin Agreement, which is now up for review, migrants hoping to apply for asylum must do so in the first country they enter, a policy which has placed a huge burden on Italy in particular.

The Aquarius rescue vessel at the centre of this week's row was on Friday continuing to make its way across the Mediterranean to Spain, which agreed to take the 629 migrants aboard after Italy and Malta refused the ship permission to dock.

His comments were echoed by Macron, who told reporters he supported the idea of "branches of our asylum agencies to tackle this question on the other side" of the Mediterranean.

"The concept itself of the state of first entry will be rethought". These problems could be avoided by processing asylum claims in applicants' home countries, he said.

"Malta and Italy didn't open their ports, but then most other European governments didn't help either", said Izza Leghtas, a senior advocate at Europe for Refugees International.

Salvini, leader of the anti-immigrant League, lost no time in falling out with some close European allies over his decision to deny access to port for a refugee vessel earlier this month.

Macron urged greater solidarity with Rome over the migrant crisis, calling for "profound reforms" of the Dublin regulation.

But there are few signs that European leaders are anywhere near being ready to coordinate their policies despite a looming end-of-June deadline to change the EU's current asylum rules.

Germany's interior minister has fired the head of the country's migration authority amid a scandal over the allegedly improper approval of over a thousand asylum requests.

The fall-out sparked panic in the European Union as Italy and Austria teamed up with Horst Seehofer, Germany's interior minister, in an "axis of the willing" to defy Mrs Merkel's open-door policies.


Macron had been critical of Italy's refusal to accept the Aquarius migrants but later worked to smooth things over later with Italy's Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte.

"I would want an axis of the willing comprising all European countries", Conte said.

France has offered to take those migrants from the Aquarius that express a desire to go there, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said in a statement sent by her ministry.

Mr Macron had accused Italy of "cynicism" and "irresponsibility" for failing to take in the Aquarius migrants.

"So, if Austria, Hungary and some others, thanks to these special contacts, can provide more of the solidarity that Italy needs, it's very good news for Italy and for everyone", Macron said.

The spat nearly resulted in the cancellation of a planned meeting on Thursday between Macron and Italy's new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

The acrimony was so bad that Italy summoned the French ambassador and cancelled a meeting between the two countries' economy ministers.

Macron, who has taken a tough line on migration from African countries that are not at war, said that "none of his comments were meant to offend Italy or the Italian people".

This has placed a significant burden in recent years on the countries where most undocumented migrants arrive.

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