Italy declines aid ship help, hands migrant rescue to Libya

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has become the public face of Italy's new unbending line on migrants

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has become the public face of Italy's new unbending line on migrants

The plan, presented by Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, sought more European Union support to help the Libyan coast guard patrol its coasts more effectively to stop migrant boats.

Migrants not entitled to asylum should be returned directly to their country of origin and not via other countries, Macron said.

For his part, Macron has called for sanctions against states refusing to take in migrants - a stance that has drawn ire from Italy's new government and is likely to be unpopular with eastern Europeans as well.

The leaders of 16 countries survived the "frank talk" of an emergency meeting on immigration and emerged with a veneer of common objective Sunday as the European Union enters a potentially vital week for its unity.

"There was a lot of goodwill today and, next to a few differences, a large amount of common ground", Merkel said after the informal gathering of leaders in Brussels.

Italy has accused him of "arrogance" and placed the responsibility for saving migrants in the Mediterranean squarely at the feet of Libya, much of which is lawless. Ministers from Malta and Italy argued on Twitter over which country was acting in a humane way towards the ship.

He also floated a broad suggestion to shore up European Union borders and vet asylum seekers from economic migrants at origin counties.

France's human rights ombudsman Jacques Toubon also criticized the French response to the Aquarius rescue ship, telling the Journal du Dimanche newspaper that the migrants should have been allowed to enter the country.

The Maltese government said its army was answering a request to offer medical assistance to a person onboard the MV Lifeline boat and would also provide humanitarian supplies. Meanwhile Spain's leader, Pedro Sánchez, called on "comrades" in other member states to help, following a recent spike in arrivals.

"Which country is going to accept to become the Calais of Europe?" she said, in reference to the northern French border town which has always been a focal point for migrants hoping to reach Britain.

The fate of the Aquarius rescue ship and its more than 600 migrants sparked a heated debate this month over European Union states' responsibilities towards asylum seekers.

He said migrant rescue ships could "forget about" docking at Italian ports.

The world's leading container shipping company Danish Maersk Line on Saturday said one of its vessels rescued 113 migrants off the coast of southern Italy. They also need to agree on how to share the burden of migrants.

Redistribution of migrants through quotas received fierce opposition from some countries after it was first proposed in 2015.

Instead of hard overall deals among all member states, she said it was "also about bi- and trilateral agreements for mutual benefit".

"The reality is that Europe is not experiencing a migration crisis of the same magnitude as the one it experienced in 2015", the French president said.

Those participating in the meeting had different priorities: Frontier countries, including Italy, seek more assistance from their peers with border protection and a more equitable allocation of migrants between the bloc's member states. "Schengen is at risk", the document said.

The leaders are also to discuss proposals for reception centers outside the bloc to separate genuine war refugees from economic migrants, who can be sent home.

But she said the Italian coastguard had told the group they "weren't needed" and "the operation was being handled by the Libyan coastguard".

Merkel came here looking for European solutions, even bilateral or temporary ones, to tamp down the challenge to her leadership and to the principle of border-free travel.

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