Rome (AFP) – Italy’s far-right interior minister on Wednesday accused Spain of failing in its commitments to receive migrants, saying it should take “the next four” rescue boats after Madrid welcomed one rejected by Rome.
Minister Matteo Salvini targeted Spain with a criticism he had earlier levelled at France, alleging the countries had received only a fraction of the migrants they had agreed to take under a European Union deal.
Spain “can therefore receive the next four boats” of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, Salvini told a press conference.
Salvini drew criticism from France last week for refusing to open Italy’s ports to the Aquarius, a rescue ship carrying 630 migrants. Spain stepped in to receive them instead.
Salvini spoke after a meeting on Wednesday with his Austrian counterpart, Herbert Kickl.
Austria’s conservative and rightwing coalition government is also taking a hard line against migrants. The country takes over the rotating EU presidency on July 1.
Salvini took office last month in a populist government formed following elections marked by the migration issue.
Italy is one of the main entry points for thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa.
Salvini called for more help from other EU countries to deal with them.
“We ask Europe to provide more men and resources to defend the Mediterranean,” he said.
Tensions over migration are expected to dominate an EU summit on June 28.
“If Europe thinks that Italy will continue to be a refugee camp, it is mistaken,” Salvini said.
“Italy only wants to help Italians.”