Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban welcomed a decision by Italy not to allow a charity vessel crammed with rescued migrants to dock in Italian ports, saying it showed a will to protect maritime borders "at last". Italy plans to transfer the migrants onto other vessels and sail them all to Spain, despite appeals from humanitarian groups to let the group disembark immediately.
"It was so depressing to hear for years that it is impossible to protect maritime borders," Orban told a news conference, as reported by Reuters. "Will power has returned to Italy."
The Italian coast guard confirmed the information in a separate statement, adding that the journey to the Spanish coast was going to take four days. The Italian escort was announced after SOS Mediterranee warned on Twitter that tackling the 1,500-kilometer sea journey alone would have been too dangerous for the overloaded Aquarius.
Paris yesterday defended its decision not to offer safe harbor to the stranded migrant ship Aquarius after local leaders on Corsica proposed opening one of their ports to the vessel.
Corsican leaders Gilles Simeoni and Jean-Guy Talamoni, the top politicians on the French Mediterranean island, tweeted their offer on Tuesday morning as uncertainty grew over the fate of the 629 people on board the ship. But the central government in Paris criticized the gesture by the Corsican nationalists.
"[Simeoni] is taking a position without having any responsibility which is easy," junior Europe and foreign affairs minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne told Sud Radio, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
"What does international law say? They need to go to the port that is safest and closest. And we can see that Corsica is not the closest or the safest. Given the boat's location, it is between Italy and Malta," he added.
Both Italy and fellow EU member Malta have refused to accept the migrants who are now heading for the Spanish port of Valencia after the new Socialist government in Madrid agreed to take them in.
Italy's hardline immigration policy under its new populist government could have knock-on effects in neighboring France, where President Emmanuel Macron has also tightened immigration laws to crack down on illegal arrivals.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini who is also deputy prime minister, has promised to deport hundreds of thousands of economic migrants, warning that Italy would not be "Europe's refugee camp". The country has been the main point of entry in Europe for migrants and refugees arriving from Africa in recent years, with 700,000 crossing the Mediterranean since 2013, often from war-wracked Libya.