EU at war: France and Italy in massive bust-up over what to do with migrants in the Mediterranean

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi (left) and his French counterpart Gerald Darmanin (right).
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi (left) and his French counterpart Gerald Darmanin (right).

The issue of who will take responsibility for those reaching the EU has festered relations within the bloc

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EU interior ministers sought to ease resurgent tensions over illegal migration at an emergency meeting on Friday, after the fate of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean caused friction between Paris and Rome.

The issue of who will take responsibility for those reaching the EU to escape poverty or war has festered relations within the bloc.

It reared its head again earlier this month as Paris and Rome clashed over France's acceptance of a boat carrying 234 rescued migrants that Italy had turned away.

Migrants on deck of NGO rescue ship 'Ocean Viking'
Migrants on deck of NGO rescue ship 'Ocean Viking'

European Commissioner Margaritis Schinas said "Everyone agrees not to repeat this kind of situation,"

While no definitive call was made, ministers welcomed a 20-point action plan proposed by the European Commission to address surging migration.

A key focus of the plan was to seek to strengthen cooperation with third countries, including steps to prevent departures from North Africa.

It also aims for greater EU coordination of search and rescue, including among coastal and flag states.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi welcomed that there was some convergence of views on the need to prevent departures of migrants and facilitate returns, as did his French counterpart Gerald Darmanin.

Schinas urged the bloc to agree on a legal, overall framework to deal with illegal immigration,

"We cannot and should not work on a crisis-by-crisis situation, ship-by-ship, incident-by-incident. We need one single framework based on EU law," he said.

The issue of who will take responsibility for those reaching the EU to escape poverty or war has festered relations within the bloc.
The issue of who will take responsibility for those reaching the EU to escape poverty or war has festered relations within the bloc.

More than 90,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in the 27-nation EU this year via the central Mediterranean route, such as across the sea from North Africa to Italy or Malta, a 50 per cent increase from 2021.

"It is only as Europeans that we can tackle these very difficult questions of irregular immigration," said Darmanin, who had called for the emergency meeting after calling Italy "selfish" for not letting the Ocean Viking dock.

Southern EU countries, including Italy, Spain and Greece, where most migrants arrive, say there is too much pressure on them and EU states to the north are not helping them enough.

Earlier today, hundreds of people have began arriving across the English Channel in small boats again, after bad weather largely prevented migrant arrivals for more than a fortnight.

Almost 450 people have crossed the English Channel in 9 small boats so far.