Italy, France call for EU migrant centres in Africa

French President Emmanuel Macron and new Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (R) held talks in Paris calling for EU migrant centres to be set up in countries of origin

Paris (AFP) – Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Friday called for the European Union to set up centres to process migrants’ asylum claims in their home countries, a proposal backed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

“We should create European centres in the countries of departure,” Conte said at a joint press conference with Macron in Paris, referring to African nations that have seen an exodus towards Europe in recent years.

His comments were echoed by Macron, who told reporters he supported the idea of “branches of our asylum agencies to tackle this question on the other side” of the Mediterranean.

The French president urged greater solidarity with Rome over the migrant crisis, calling for “profound reforms” of EU asylum rules known as the Dublin regulation. 

Those rules have placed a huge burden on Mediterranean countries — Italy in particular — as they require migrants to claim for asylum in the first European country they enter.

The joint proposal comes after a bitter diplomatic spat between France and Italy over the new Italian government’s refusal to give the Aquarius rescue ship, carrying 629 migrants, permission to dock.

Macron had accused Rome earlier this week of “cynicism and irresponsibility”, sparking fury from Conte’s government.

But he sought Thursday to cool the tensions, saying that “none of his comments were intended to offend Italy”.