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European Union leaders tackle political flare-up over migrants

24 June 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government coalition is under threat from the issue and there has also been a row over a boatload of migrants rescued from the Mediterranean who were turned away by Italy's new right-wing government.

Coming to Merkel's rescue on the explosive issue, Macron on Tuesday said that Paris and Berlin had agreed to seek an European Union deal to send back migrants registered elsewhere in the bloc.

Muscat said that the boat did not follow instructions from the Italian and Libyan authorities when it began sailing towards Italy.

Earlier this month Matteo Salvini pledged to no longer let charity ships offload rescued migrants in Italy, leaving the Gibraltar-flagged Aquarius stranded at sea for several days with more than 600 migrants until Spain offered them safe haven.

"Clearly, the boat should immediately be impounded and its crew arrested", he added.

"We have nothing against NGOs but we are and continue to be committed to the rule of law", Toninelli said in a statement on Facebook, accusing the organization of endangering the lives of migrants and encouraging people to make the unsafe sea crossing.

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Lifeline said a merchant vessel, the Alexander Maersk, had another 113 migrants and was also waiting for a port to receive them.

Salvini has likened such rescue ships to taxi services that finish the job for migrant smugglers.

Matteo Salvini said Thursday the ship Lifeline rescued 224 migrants in Libyan waters, after the Italian coast guard had told the ship to defer to the Libyan coast guard.

But questioned about Lifeline's fate at a rally in the city of Terni on Thursday evening, Salvini said: "It's a pirate ship, like Captain Hook's", Italian news agency AGI reported.

While the number of sea arrivals to Italy has dropped dramatically this year - by more than 77 percent from 2017 - the new populist government has thrust immigration to the top of the EU's agenda ahead of a summit of leaders next week.

In a video posted to Facebook on Thursday, Salvini criticised Mission Lifeline for not heeding the instructions of Italian or Libyan authorities.

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"We can't accept any one person".

The leaders of Germany and France agreed on Tuesday to create a budget for the euro zone and hailed a "new chapter" for the currency union, but they left the details to be worked out later with other members of the 19-country bloc. "On the contrary, we would like to send somewhere a few", he added.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron met outside Berlin to discuss the proposal, which had been advocated by Macron.

Europe has seen a huge influx of migrant arrivals since 2015, mostly from war-torn Syria and Iraq, and the influx of migrants has seen a rise in anti-immigration parties across the continent.

But the government was placated after Merkel told them the text had been shelved.

Referring to hasty arrangements and a domestic crisis over migration policies within Germany's coalition government, the fervently anti-migrant Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, said: "We understand that countries have domestic political difficulties, but this can't result in pan-European confusion". While Europe's economy has picked up and there is no immediate sign of financial stress, many analysts say reforms are needed to protect the single currency.

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European Union leaders tackle political flare-up over migrants