French president backs sanctions on European Union states refusing migrants

Macron Attacks Italy’s New Govt Warns Euroscepticism Is Spreading ‘Like Leprosy’			LUDOVIC MARIN  AFP  Getty Images		22 Jun 2018

Macron Attacks Italy’s New Govt Warns Euroscepticism Is Spreading ‘Like Leprosy’ LUDOVIC MARIN AFP Getty Images 22 Jun 2018

Italy said on Tuesday that Malta would allow the rescue ship Lifeline, stuck for a fifth day in worldwide waters in the Mediterranean with more than 230 migrants aboard, to enter one of its ports, and that they would be divided up among European Union members willing to take them in.

At emergency migration talks in Brussels, a group of 16 countries led by France and Germany were thrashing out who should take responsibility for migrants and refugees arriving in Europe - now mostly Italy, Greece and Spain - how long they should take care of them and how much their European partners should do to help out.

"It is also about bi- and trilateral agreements for mutual benefit", she said.

A Danish cargo ship carrying more than 100 rescued migrants and not covered by Italy's ban on charity ships was permitted to dock on Tuesday in Pozzallo on the Italian island of Sicily.

French President Emmanuel Macron urged his counterparts to take advantage of the sharp drop in migrant arrivals since a 2015 peak - Europe's worst such crisis since World War II - to find solutions.

Mrs Le Pen, the head of the eurosceptic Rassemblement National party, said at a rally in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, said: "Mrs Merkel is in very serious trouble.

Our public opinion is asking for this", Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said when arriving for the talks, adding he would propose his new ideas on migration.

Merkel, having long ago moved her CDU party to the political centre, now faces "a putsch from the right", said a leader of the far-left Die Linke party, Bernd Riexinger, watching the spectacle from the sidelines.

Arriving at the summit, Malta's prime minister, Joseph Muscat, sought to defuse the row, saying it was not a time for finger-pointing as he advised against "building a wall even on the high seas".

"The immigration emergency continues in Italy, partly because France keeps pushing back people at the border", Italian deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio shot back on his Facebook page, warning Macron risked turning France into "Italy's number one enemy" on the issue.

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With a populist backlash over her initial open-door policy toward asylum-seekers, Merkel emerged weakened in recent elections.

The open challenge against Merkel is led by CSU boss and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who has cultivated ties with anti-immigration hardliners in Austria, Hungary and Italy.

At the center of the impasse is a disagreement about who should bear the ultimate responsibility for handling an asylum seeker's claim.

Salvini said that France would not transform Italy - which has taken in almost 700,000 migrants since 2013 - "into Europe's refugee camp".

If that fails, he vowed to order border police to turn back migrants, which means Merkel would be forced to back him or sack him. Hundreds drown each year attempting the perilous crossing over the Mediterranean in often rickety boats.

There are now no closed migrant centers where applications are processed, with the exception of a few cases in Greece and Italy managed by the UNHCR.

Sunday's mini-summit was called by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker who billed it as an "informal working meeting" in advance of an important EU summit on migration policy scheduled for June 28 and 29.

European Union diplomats and sources said the talks due to begin at 3 p.m. (1300 GMT) will also tackle how to strengthen the bloc's external borders, where consensus exists.

Human rights organizations have criticized the practice, alleging that migrants are abused in Libya and the North African country hardly constitutes a "safe" port of call, as called for by worldwide law.

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