Italian officials are digging their heels in over EU migration after League leader and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini branded French President Emmanuel Macron "arrogant" for trying to downplay Europe's migration crisis, while Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said that Macron risks making France Italy's "number one enemy on this emergency" in a Saturday Facebook post.
In Italy the immigration emergency exists, and it is also fueled by France with the continued rejections at the border. Macron is running his country to become the number one enemy of Italy on this emergency, the French people have always been supportive and friend of Italians. Listen to them, not who makes money on those people's skin.
Macron came under fire after stating that "Europe is not experiencing a migration crisis of the same magnitude as the one it experienced in 2015," and that EU nations which "massively voice their national selfishness when it comes to migrant issues" will be cut off from EU benefits - effectively threatening to sanction countries with populist policies.
Salvini punched back, claiming that Italy faced 650,000 migrant arrivals by sea over the past four years, which included 430,000 requests for asylum. Salvini added that the country currently hosts 170,000 "alleged refugees" which costs €5 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," Salvini stated, in reference to the Italian town which borders France.
On Sunday, Italian Prime minister Guiseppe Conte - who rejected Macron's "hypocritical lessons" - said that he was "decidedly satisfied" after the emergency EU meeting in Brussels over migration. Italy presented a document during the meeting calling on EU countries to accept their fair share of economic migrants entering the bloc - or receive less EU funding.
Si è conclusa la riunione informale sul tema migrazione a Bruxelles e rientriamo a Roma decisamente soddisfatti. Abbiamo impresso la giusta direzione al dibattito in corso. Ci rivediamo giovedì al Consiglio Europeo.— GiuseppeConte (@GiuseppeConteIT) June 24, 2018
Relations between France and Italy over migration immediately tanked after Salvini, a populist, took office on June 1. His first major decision was to block the migrant transport vessel Aquarius from Italian ports - which led to a minor standoff that ended when Spain - and eventually France, agreed to take the 629 "shipwrecked" migrants from the Libyan coast.
Meanwhile, Salvini on Sunday told foreign Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) to stop rescuing migrants off Libya despite one group claiming there are 1,000 people stranded in the Mediterranean on boats right now.
According to AFP, Spanish group Proactiva Open Arms said it had received "seven or eight" messages alerting them to boats in distress in the Mediterranean on Sunday.
"Combining all the notifications, it would add up to 1,000 people" near the coast of Libya, spokeswoman Laura Lanuza told AFP, adding that the Italian coastguard said the NGO wasn't needed, and "the operation was being handled by the Libyan coastguard."
"If the Libyan coastguard coordinates this effort, all these people will be sent back to Libya," she said.
Which, of course, is Italy's point.
Salvini told the charity aid groups to back off and let the Libyan coast guard rescue the migrants.
"Let the Libyan authorities do their work of rescue, recovery and return (of migrants) to their country, as they have been doing for some time, without the ships of the voracious NGOs disturbing them or causing trouble," said Salvini, who added "Italian ports are and will be closed to those who aid human traffickers."
"These boats can forget about reaching Italy, I want to stop the business of trafficking and mafia," Salvini said Saturday.
The Libyan coastguard reported that it had rescued 97 migrants on Sunday, while "other operations are under way," without elaborating.
Meanwhile, the Italian coastguard also told other rescue boats in the Mediterranean Friday that it would no longer coordinate rescue operations with them for Libyan migrants.
"From now on, under the Solas Convention (Safety of life at Sea), captains who are at sea in the area near Libya will have to turn to the Tripoli Centre and the Libyan Coast Guard for help," according to the message cited in the Italian media.
Two other ships carrying hundreds of migrants - the German NGO ship Lifeline and Danish container ship Alexander Maersk - are currently stranded in the Mediterranean awaiting instructions on where they will be allowed to dock.
And with both Italy and nearby Malta refusing to take the migrants in, Barcelona mayor Ada Colau implored the Spanish government to help the 1,000 stranded migrants: "Right now more than 1,000 people adrift in seven boats and Italy intends to leave them in the hands of Libya, where people are tortured, raped and enslaved," she said on Twitter.
Ahora mismo más d 1000 personas a la deriva en 7 barcas e Italia pretende dejarlas en manos d Libia, donde se tortura, viola y esclaviza a las personas.— Ada Colau (@AdaColau) June 24, 2018
Gobierno d @sanchezcastejon @carmencalvo_ ayuden a @openarms_fund a salvar vidas! Barcelona se ofrece como puerto seguro https://t.co/RCbunmIsjm
Colau urged Spain to "help save lives" and said that "Barcelona is offered as a safe harbour."
We are "confident" that all of Spain agrees with Colau, and the wave of populism sweeping Europe (which one EU official has squarely blamed on Putin) couldn't possibly influence Spanish voters as their own cultural matrix begins to glitch.