"Shameful" handling of migrant ship shows need for European Union asylum reform

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Italy's refusal not only sends a message to the rest of the European Union that it is "no longer prepared to shoulder" this burden, it is also a warning to "those in Libya who can influence the flow of migrants and refugees", says The Economist.

Milanesi added that the comments made by France were "compromising relations between Italy and France".

But the French foreign ministry on Thursday said it was ready to welcome migrants aboard the Aquarius who "meet the criteria for asylum" after they arrive in Spain.

French president Emannuel Macron criticized the decision and asserted that "there is a degree of cynicism and irresponsibility in the Italian government's behaviour".

Italy for years has complained that it has been left largely alone to manage Europe's migrant crisis, but the new government says its firm stance has finally gotten the point across.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday he could not apologise for criticising Italy's hardline migrant stance in rejecting rescue ship Aquarius, saying "I can't say those who provoke are right".

Gabriel Attal, the spokesman for Macron's party, called Italy's actions "nauseating".

On Saturday, Spain plans to welcome the Aquarius ship, which has been making an 800-mile humanitarian journey with global supervision due to safety concerns. Rome summoned the French ambassador in response.

Still at sea were 41 migrants rescued Tuesday by the U.S. Navy vessel Trenton, which was in the Mediterranean for what the U.S. 6th Fleet said was a routine operation. "We must urgently find a means to help these rescued migrants and work for a comprehensive method of supporting migrants and States throughout Europe", he said.

Italy and Malta dug in for a second day and refused to let the rescue ship Aquarius with 629 people aboard dock in their ports, leaving the migrants at sea as a diplomatic standoff escalated under Italy's new anti-immigrant government.

Spain offered the Aquarius safe harbour in Valencia after Italy and Malta refused it entry. He declared his support for Kurz's proposal for a three-way "axis of the willing" with Italy to fight illegal migration.

On Sunday, Italy's new anti-migrant interior minister, Matteo Salvini, blocked the ship from docking in Sicily, saying Italy had already taken in enough migrants - 640,000 over the last five years.

Salvini has accused charities that rescue migrants of working with human traffickers but said Italy would not stop rescuing migrant boats itself.

"Italy and France must deepen their bilateral and European cooperation to implement an effective migration policy with countries of origin and transit", the statement said.