EU ministers seek to resolve feud over illegal Mediterranean migrants

© via REUTERS - CAMILLE MARTIN JUAN

European interior ministers have held emergency talks on migration in the wake of a dispute between Paris and Rome over how to handle the thousands who continue to attempt to cross the Mediterranean.

The numbers of migrants arriving on Europe's Mediterranean shores haven't yet hit the levels of 2015 and 2016. European capitals are nonetheless concerned about growing pressure on sea routes from north Africa and overland through the western Balkans.

With the onset of winter in eastern Europe, the EU is braced for many more war refugees fleeing Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Italy's new government under far-right leader Georgia Meloni refused to allow a Norwegian-flagged rescue ship to dock with 234 migrants on board.

The Ocean Viking was eventually welcomed in the French port of Toulon. The authorities in Paris have criticised Rome's stance.

In the wake of this dispute, France demanded Friday's extraordinary meeting of interior ministers from the 27 EU member states.

Shared responsibility

On the basis of the existing agreement, a dozen EU member states are supposed to share 8,000 asylum seekers, with France and Germany taking 3,500 each.

So far, only 117 of those who made landfall in Greece or Italy have been relocated.

In the wake of Italy's refusal of responsibility for the Ocean Viking, France has declared that it does not want to allow ships to arrive from Italian waters, nor take in the 3,500 asylum seekers assigned under its EU quota.

"Obviously the meeting was set up following the spat between Italy and France over the migrants aboard the Ocean Viking," a European diplomat said.


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