Italy accepts 900 migrants but 600 more continue onto Spain

Italy's Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi summoned French Ambassador to Italy Catherine Colonna after French President Emmanuel Macron called Italy "irresponsible" for refusing to accept migrants from the Aquarius vessel stranded in the Mediterranean, the ministry said in a statement.

Far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini further raised the stakes suggesting a planned meeting between the two countries should be cancelled if France did not issue an "official apology".

Salvini shot back that France has turned away thousands of migrants trying to reach France at Italy's northern border.

The migrants aboard the Aquarius, run by French NGO SOS Mediterranee, were stuck on the overloaded ship as Italy and Malta bickered over who should take them.

The co-founder of the SOS Mediterranee charity says three ships carrying 629 migrants are expected to arrive around Saturday night at the Spanish port of Valencia, depending on weather conditions.

The M5S-League government says that current European Union rules, which require migrants to seek asylum wherever in Europe they first arrive, leave Italy and its southern neighbours bearing the brunt of mass migration across the Mediterranean.

More than 1.8 million have entered Europe since 2014, and Italy is now sheltering more than 170,000 asylum seekers, as well as an estimated half-million unregistered migrants.

Meanwhile Finance Minister Giovanni Tria announced that he would cancel an official visit to Paris, though his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire later said the two had agreed to reschedule their talks.

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"The same can not be said of France, which has often adopted much more rigid and cynical immigration policies". Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said France was "fully aware of the burden that the migration pressure is placing on Italy" and that it was committed to cooperating with Rome on immigration.

Amid mounting cross-party concern that German asylum policy is in disarray, Seehofer, of the Bavarian conservative CSU party, met Austria's chancellor, Sebastian Kurz. Kurz said Europe needed an "axis of the willing in the fight against illegal migration".

But there was also criticism from Spain, despite its gesture of solidarity.

Spain stepped in and said the migrants could land at the port of Valencia. "Therefore I think that there must be many such kinds of cooperation, not just in this one direction".

As EU politicians have dithered or traded blame, refugees have continued to arrive.

More than 900 people have arrived at the Italian port of Catania in Sicily after being rescued at sea by the Italian Coast Guard.

A Dutch-flagged humanitarian ship, the Sea Watch 3, was called by a U.S. Navy vessel to take on board 41 survivors and 12 bodies recovered after a shipwreck on Tuesday.

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