MILAN (Reuters) - Italy on Saturday said “arrogant” France risked becoming its “No.1 enemy” on migration issues, a day before European leaders convene in Brussels for a hastily arranged meeting on the divisive issue.
In answer to comments by French President Emmanuel Macron, who said migration flows towards Europe had reduced compared with a few years ago, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said Macron’s words showed he was out of touch with reality.
“Italy indeed faces a migration emergency and it’s partly because France keeps pushing back people at the border. Macron risks making his country Italy’s No.1 enemy on this emergency,” Di Maio wrote on his Facebook page.
Macron said European cooperation had managed to cut migration flows by close to 80 percent and problems stemmed from “secondary” movements of migrants within Europe.
“The reality is that Europe is not experiencing a migration crisis of the same magnitude as the one it experienced in 2015,” the French president said. “A country like Italy has not at all the same migratory pressure as last year. ... The crisis we are experiencing today in Europe is a political crisis ... tied to secondary movements between European countries.”
But Italy’s Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said his country had faced 650,000 arrivals by sea over the past four years, 430,000 asylum requests and the hosting of 170,000 “alleged refugees” for an overall cost of more than 5 billion euros ($5.8 billion).
“If for the arrogant President Macron this is not a problem, we invite him to stop insulting and to show instead some concrete generosity by opening up France’s many ports and letting children, men and women through at Ventimiglia,” he said in a statement, referring to the northwestern Italian town at the border with France.
Reporting by Valentina Za in Milan and Mathieu Rosemain in Paris; Editing by Mark Potter