France warns Italy as EU hosts migration crisis talks
November 25, 2022 / 9:53 PM
Sharjah24 - AFP: France on Friday accused Italy of failing to respect the law of the sea as European interior ministers held crisis talks on how to handle the arrival of would-be refugees.
The European Union hosted talks in Brussels after a row erupted between Paris and Rome over a migrant rescue ship and eastern member states sounded the alarm about new arrivals via the Balkan land route.
Numbers of asylum seekers haven't yet hit the levels of 2015 and 2016, but the dispute has already undermined a stop-gap pact to redistribute the arrivals more evenly around the 27-nation bloc.
Brussels has been struggling for years to agree and implement a new policy for sharing responsibility for migrants and asylum seekers but the ugly row has brought the issue to the fore.
Earlier this month, Italy's new government under far-right leader Georgia Meloni refused to allow a Norwegian-flagged NGO ship to dock with 234 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean.
The Ocean Viking eventually continued on to France, where authorities reacted with fury to Rome's stance, suspending an earlier deal to take in 3,500 asylum seekers stranded in Italy.
The row undermined the EU's stop-gap interim solution and led to Paris calling Friday's extraordinary meeting of interior ministers from the 27 member states.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said there was no reason for France to accept migrants relocated from Italy if Rome "does not take the boats, does not accept the law of the sea".
The previous plan was drawn up after Mediterranean countries closer to North African shores, like Italy and Greece, complained that they were shouldering too much responsibility for migrants.
A dozen EU members agreed to take in 8,000 asylum seekers -- with France and Germany accepting 3,500 each -- but so far just 117 relocations have actually happened.