Germany tells Italy it will take in 50 migrants from Frontex ships

Berlin: Germany said Sunday it had agreed with Italy to take in 50 of the 450 migrants aboard two EU border agency vessels, matching similar pledges by France and Malta. Italy has since Saturday requested that EU peers take some of the migrants stranded aboard the Frontex ships off the Italian coast.

A German government spokeswoman said in a statement Sunday that “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”. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had written Saturday on Facebook that “France and Malta will respectively take 50 migrants each… other countries will follow very quickly”.

Conte said he had spent the day in contact with his 27 EU peers, reminding them that they had agreed at their end-of-June summit on the need to share the migration burden.

Italy’s new populist government, which came to power on June 1, 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.

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 meanwhile 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 daily El Pais.

Spanish rescuers separately saved more than 340 migrants from the Mediterranean on Saturday.