Paris, Jan 22: France has summoned Italy’s ambassador after the Italian Deputy Prime Minister accused the French of exploiting Africa and fuelling migration.
On Sunday, Luigi di Maio called on the European Union to impose sanctions on France for its Africa policies, the BBC reported.
French diplomatic sources quoted by Italian news agency Ansa called these remarks “hostile and without cause” given the partnership between France and Italy in the European Union.
The Italian ambassador to France, Teresa Castaldo, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry here on Monday. Di Maio, though was unrepentant on Monday, the BBC said.
The Labour and Economy Minister, whose country is the destination for thousands seeking a new life in Europe, said France had “never stopped colonising tens of African states”.
“The EU should sanction France and all countries like France that impoverish Africa and make these people leave, because Africans should be in Africa, not at the bottom of the Mediterranean,” he said.
His comments came as the UN said about 170 migrants were feared drowned in two separate Mediterranean shipwrecks.
“If people are leaving today it’s because European countries, France above all, have never stopped colonising dozens of African countries.” He said if it wasn’t for Africa, France would rank 15th among world economies, not in the top six.
The two European nations have previously also clashed on issues linked to migration. In 2018, France criticised Italy for not allowing rescue boats carrying migrants in the Mediterranean to dock.
Italy’s other Deputy Prime Minister, Matteo Salvini, wrote on Facebook after the latest deaths in the Mediterranean that “as long as European ports remain open… unfortunately the smugglers will continue to do business and kill”.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says 4,216 migrants have crossed to Europe by sea in the first 16 days of 2019 — more than double the number arriving in the same period last year.