BRUSSELS (AP) – The Latest on the migrant crisis in Europe (all times local):
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says his country will reintroduce controls on its border with Italy if Germany were to turn back migrants at its border to Austria.
Kurz told daily German tabloid Bild on Saturday: “we would do everything possible to protect our borders … including border protection at the Brenner” — one of the main Austrian-Italian border crossings.
Kurz’s remarks came ahead of a Sunday meeting of European leaders hoping to find common ground for tackling the issue of migrants arriving on European shores- a growing political crisis that is threatening to undermine European Union.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is at odds with her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, about how to decrease the influx of migrants to the country. Seehofer has threatened to turn back some migrants at the German-Austrian border if Merkel doesn’t find a European-wide solution on migration.
Malta’s premier is telling a German aid group to reroute its ship away from the Mediterranean island to avoid further escalation of another European standoff over helping migrants.
The German NGO Mission Lifeline says it has 234 migrants aboard its vessel and is adrift in international waters waiting for a safe port to dock. Italy has refused it entry, saying Lifeline had acted improperly by taking on board migrants who the Italian coast guard had assigned to the Libyan coast guard.
On Saturday, the Maltese armed forces provided humanitarian supplies to the Lifeline vessel.
Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat tweeted that Malta had “no responsibility” in the ‘rescue’ and that the Lifeline “should move from its position toward their original destination [in Italy] to prevent escalation” of the situation.
Spanish authorities say they have collected 569 migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to Spain by boat.
Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service says those picked up on Saturday included 264 people in 16 boats in the Strait of Gibraltar, a busy shipping lane with treacherous currents. Two men were pulled from a canoe.
Fair weather and calm seas in recent days have brought an uptick in migrants’ attempts to reach the Spanish coast via the Western Mediterranean route.
Also, Spain’s new left-wing government recently announced a softer stance on migration, extending public health care to foreigners without residence permits.
A week ago, Spain took in 630 migrants from the French aid ship Aquarius after Malta and Italy, which were closer, refused to grant the ship access to their ports.
European Union leaders on Sunday will try to find common ground for tackling migrants arriving on Europe’s shores in search of better lives – a growing political crisis threatening to undermine the entire EU project.
The leaders of about 16 countries — more than half the 28-nation bloc — will take part in what is being billed as “informal talks” in Brussels, ahead of a full EU summit on June 28-29, where migration will top the agenda.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the meeting involves “talking with particularly affected nations about all problems connected with migration.”
The arrival of more than one million people in 2015, most fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq, exposed glaring deficiencies in EU migrant reception capacities and asylum laws.