Five European countries agree to take in stranded migrants: Italy PM

#Migration

Still, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis tweets that his country will not accept any of 450 asylum seekers

Woman holds up sign during protest in northern Italy near French border on Saturday (AFP)
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Monday 16 July 2018 5:41 UTC
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Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Sunday said five European countries had agreed to take in 250 of the 450 migrants aboard two EU border agency vessels.



Conte (AFP/file photo)

"Even Spain and Portugal will take 50 migrants each, as France, Germany and Malta have already done," Conte said in a tweet.

Earlier Sunday Germany agreed with Italy to take in 50 migrants after Rome requested that its EU peers take some of the migrants stranded off the Italian coast.

A German government spokeswoman said in a statement: "Germany and Italy have agreed that, in view of the ongoing talks on intensified bilateral cooperation on asylum policy, Germany is ready to take in 50 people".

Conte had contacted his 27 EU peers to remind them that they had agreed at their end-of-June summit on the need to share the migration burden.

He announced on Saturday that France and Malta would take 50 migrants each, and "other countries will follow very quickly".

"This is the solidarity and responsibility we have always asked from Europe and now, after the results obtained at the last European Council, it is starting to become reality," he said on Facebook on Sunday.

"Let's continue on this path with firmness and respect for human rights."

Other EU countries may join in after Conte sent letters to the heads of state and heads of government of the other EU members asking them to share responsibility for the migrants, who had sailed from Libya.

The Czech Republic, however, refused the request.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis tweeted that the country would not accept any of the 450 asylum seekers.

Babis reiterated his stance that boats should be stopped and turned back and that migrants should be helped in their countries instead of being allowed into the European Union.

Italy's new populist government, which came to power on 1 June, wants to block any further migrant arrivals by boat and has banned NGO rescue ships from docking in Italian ports, accusing them of aiding human traffickers.

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The latest migrants, like thousands of others, had set sail from Libya in a single wooden vessel, which was identified early Friday.

On Saturday morning, as the two Frontex vessels approached the boat, several migrants threw themselves overboard, prompting immediate efforts to rescue them, Italian sources said. 

Eight women and children were taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa for medical treatment.

Spain's new foreign minister, Josep Borrell, on Sunday said that the EU's prized Schengen free-movement system was "beginning to disappear" under pressure from migrants arriving in the bloc. 

"Through the back door, France, Italy and Germany have placed controls on the borders because of the migration crisis," Borrell told the El Pais newspaper.