Italy turns away another rescue boat carrying 200 migrants

Frank-Walter Steinmeier

He said migrants not entitled to asylum should be returned directly to their countries of origin and not travel via other countries. Although the idea remains sketchy and no African countries have agreed to host the centres, the idea is far more consensual among European Union leadersthan how to manage people once they reach Europe.

But such "secondary movements" are hard to stop in the border-free Schengen zone, and have been widespread since immigration to Europe peaked in 2015, when more than a million people arrived from the Middle East and Africa.

Macron said Europe, with its rise in populist rightwing forces, faces "a moment of truth" and must seek common ground on migration as well as economic, political, financial, environmental and defence issues.

European Union states that refuse to accept migrants should face financial penalties, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday, prompting a furious response from Rome on the eve of an emergency mini-summit in Brussels about the escalating crisis dividing Europe.

"What it's about on Sunday is talking with particularly affected nations about all problems connected with migration - primary migration as well as secondary migration - and, following on from Sunday, seeing whether we can reach, bi-, tri- or even multinational agreements to better solve certain problems", she said.

Additionally, Seehofer told a local daily on Friday that he would not back away from his controversial "migration master plan", which foresees turning away most of the asylum-seekers at Germany's border.

Three-quarters of Germans do not believe Chancellor Angela Merkel will manage to secure a European solution to the immigration dispute that is plaguing her relationship with her Bavarian allies in government, a survey showed on Wednesday.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel has conceded "no solution will be reached" on the overall migration issue at either summit. "So it's also about bilateral or trilateral agreements, about how we can help each other - not always to have to wait for all 28, but to consider what is important to whom".

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Far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini also reacted furiously in remarks reported by Italian media.

She also met with the president as well as with representatives of United Nations agencies and Lebanese businessmen during her trip.

Merkel also got Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to attend the mini-summit by telling him pre-written conclusions had been withdrawn, Italian officials said.

Barcelona mayor Ada Colao, who previously offered Barcelona as a port when Italy refused entry to another aid group's rescue ship, repeated her willingness to take in the migrants and urged prime minister Pedro Sanchez to intervene to allow Proactiva's ship to "save lives".

But Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the Lifeline "broke rules" by ignoring Italy's directions and should move towards its original destination "to prevent escalation".

As with everything linked to migration in Europe, even the meeting in Brussels has not pleased everybody.

Italy's new right-wing government has taken a harder stance on rescue ships bringing large numbers of migrants to Italy, which is often the nearest port for those rescued off coast of Libya.

The meeting was called last week to clear the air before a scheduled full summit on Thursday and Friday.

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