This June 12, 2018 photo released Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by French NGO "SOS Mediterranee" shows migrants being transferred from the Aquarius ship to Italian Coast Guard boats, in the Mediterranean Sea. Italy dispatched two ships Tuesday to help take 629 migrants stuck off its shores on the days-long voyage to Spain in what is forecast to be bad weather, after the new populist government refused them safe port in a dramatic bid to force Europe to share the burden of unrelenting arrivals. (Kenny Karpov/SOS Mediterranee via AP)

The Latest: Head of Germany's migration office fired

June 15, 2018 - 3:59 pm

PARIS (AP) — The Latest on the flow of migrants to Europe (all times local):

9:10 p.m.

Germany's interior minister has fired the head of the country's migration authority amid a scandal over the allegedly improper approval of over a thousand asylum requests.

News agency dpa reported the German Interior Ministry said Friday that minister Horst Seehofer had informed Jutta Cordt of her dismissal.

Cordt, who took over the agency at the beginning of 2017, was caught in the fallout from a scandal centering on the Bremen branch of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Last month, Seehofer banned that branch from making asylum decisions.

Germany took in more than a million refugees and migrants in 2015-2016, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Authorities at the time were overwhelmed with a flood of asylum applications.

The agency scandal is separate from a standoff between Seehofer and Chancellor Angela Merkel over migrant policy.


8:55 p.m.

Italy's transport minister says members of the country's coast guard are rescuing some 500 migrants who set off from Libya aboard four different boats.

Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said Italy's actions on Friday show that "no one can say we aren't fulfilling our responsibilities, or that we're racist or xenophobic."

Toninelli said Italy is now waiting for a "strong sign" from the European Union that it will help Italy manage the large number of migrants who arrive in the country after attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

Italy was criticized — and praised — this week for refusing to let a humanitarian rescue ship dock. The Aquarius is now on a dayslong voyage to Spain with its 629 migrant passengers. The new Italian government's policy apparently bars foreign-flagged rescue ships from docking, but allows entry to Italian vessels.


7:50 p.m.

Italian news reports say a U.S. Navy ship will offload the 40 migrants its crew rescued earlier this week onto an Italian coast guard vessel that will bring them to shore.

The arrangement reported Friday by the ANSA news agency would be in keeping with Italy's new migration policy to not allow foreign-flagged rescue vessels to dock in Italian ports.

The Trenton rescued the 40 migrants Tuesday. At least 12 other people died when their dinghy capsized.

The Trenton had asked the nearby humanitarian rescue ship Sea Watch-3 to take the migrants, but Sea Watch declined unless Italy assigned it a nearby port to dock. Sea Watch feared that it would end up like the Aquarius, a rescue ship that has been on a dayslong voyage to Spain with 600 migrants aboard after Italy refused it entry.

Calls and emails to the 6th Fleet were not answered late Friday.


4:10 p.m.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says Italy is working on a proposal for a "radical paradigm change" in the way Europe manages migration that focuses on the countries of migrants' origin and transit.

Conte told a press conference alongside French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday that existing European Union regulations on asylum applications aren't working.

He says Italy plans to share the proposal for an "integrated" approach to migration when Austria takes over the EU's rotating presidency on July 1.

Amid a quarrel this week over which country should welcome more than 600 passengers from a migrant rescue ship, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz proposed an "axis of the willing" to tackle the problem of illegal migration.

Kurz said Italy and Germany would be the other members of the troika.

Conte says it was "time to turn the page" on Italy's dispute with France over the Aquarius, which is now bound for Spain.


3:55 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says Europe's response to mass migration has not adapted to the times and insists reform is needed.

During a joint news conference with Italian Prime minister Giuseppe Conte on Friday, Macron said "the proper response is European, but the existing European response is not adapted."

The French leader says European solidarity didn't fulfill its role in recent years with Italy, the first European country on the migration route from North Africa. 

Macron called for greater protection of Europe's borders, saying "the existing system doesn't work."


3 p.m.

Italy's foreign minister has met with his Maltese counterpart following a clash over a migrant rescue boat that escalated into a European-wide showdown.

The Italian foreign ministry said that Italy's Enzo Moavero Milanesi and Malta's Carmelo Abela, met Friday in Rome and expressed "the shared desire to work together in tight coordination, especially in European capitals, about migration in terms of revising" EU asylum regulations.

Italy had initially insisted that Malta take in the Aquarius rescue ship and the 629 migrants onboard rescued in a series of operations last weekend. Malta refused, saying it wasn't involved in the rescue. Italy refused as well, leaving the migrants stranded at sea until Spain stepped up to take the Aquarius in.

The Aquarius is currently en route to Valencia, having changed course Thursday due to rough weather.


2:40 p.m.

Spain's maritime rescue service says it has rescued around 270 migrants and recovered three bodies from more than 30 boats trying to cross from Africa by sea.

The rescue service says Friday's fog is cramping rescuers' efforts to locate three more boats in the Alboran Sea, east of the Strait of Gibraltar.

Nine rescue boats, a helicopter and an airplane from the European border agency, Frontex, are taking part in the operation.

Fleeing violent conflicts or extreme poverty, the migrants attempt the perilous journey into Europe in smugglers' dinghies or fragile, inflatable recreational boats.

At least 792 migrants have died so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean, according to the United Nations. Through the first five months of 2018, 35,455 migrants reached European shores, with 11,792 of them arriving in Spain.


2:15 p.m.

The Spanish government says it will pass a decree to extend public health care to foreigners without residence permits as part of new migration policies.

The government's spokeswoman, Isabel Celaa, announced Friday a series of measures that will "put people's rights first" and distance the new center-left cabinet from the previous conservative administration.

Celaa says the government will assess through technical reports how to remove, "without losing any security," the barbed wire capping the fences of Ceuta and Melilla, the two Spanish enclaves in northern Africa.

Hundreds suffer injuries every year when they try to get onto European soil from Morocco.

Celaa, also minister of education, says the new measures shouldn't encourage more arrivals, because migrants are on the move anyway to escape poverty and violence.


2:05 p.m.

Pope Francis says that the Gospel teaches that it's wrong to leave migrants "at the mercy of the waves," an apparent critique of Italy's new migration policies.

The pope made the comments Friday during an audience with Italian workers. It was the second time in as many days that the Argentine Jesuit has referred to the plight of refugees after Italy's decision to refuse entry to a rescue boat with 600 migrants aboard.

In his speech, Francis lamented how many people in the world are excluded from work because of war or environmental degradation and said that those living comfortable lives should seek to help them.

The Gospel, he said, "teaches us and our world to not leave to the mercy of the waves those who leave their lands hungry for bread and justice."


9:55 a.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron and new Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte meet Friday amid tensions between the two countries over migration.

Conte, who heads a populist government, will have a working lunch with the pro-European Macron at the Elysee palace. They will then hold a joint news conference.

Macron's office said the discussions will focus on migrant-related issues and other major European topics ahead of an EU summit at the end of the month.

A feud was triggered this week by Macron's tough assessment of Italy's decision to shut its ports to a rescue ship carrying 629 migrants — he called the Italian government's behavior "irresponsible."

Both leaders agreed Thursday to maintain the planned meeting after a phone call they described as cordial.

Macron said he never "meant to offend" Italy.

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