Migration on agenda at European Union summit in Brussels

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has become the public face of Italy's new unbending line on migrants

In answer to comments by French President Emmanuel Macron, who said migration flows towards Europe had reduced compared with a few years ago, Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said Macron's words showed he was out of touch.

If that fails, he vowed to order border police to turn back migrants, which means many will likely have to return to Italy.

"These boats can forget about reaching Italy, I want to stop the business of trafficking and mafia".

He made his divisive remarks a day before the European Union is set to hold an emergency meeting in Brussels to discuss disputes over migration with the aim to prepare the ground for a formal European Union summit at the end of next week.

The statements from the French president come in the wake of Italy's new populist government declaring that its ports were closed to arriving migrants on foreign-flagged rescue ships.

This is a blow for the chancellor who had promised her Bavarian allies that she would seek to overcome any stalemate in the European Union with bilateral deals.

A similar case earlier this month led Spain to accept 630 migrants.

The Libyan navy said five people died and almost 200 were rescued off its coast while trying to cross the Mediterranean.

The Italian government has said both the Lifeline, run by German NGO Mission Lifeline, and another ship Seefuchs, run by another German charity Sea-Eye, - would be seized and directed to Italian ports for investigation "into their legal status".

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has indicated that the ship may not dock in Italy and that Malta should take it in.

But Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Lifeline "broke rules" by ignoring Italy's directions and should move towards its original destination "to prevent escalation".

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"Despite having no responsibility #Malta just provided humanitarian supplies" while its armed forces carried out the medical evacuation of one passenger, he said. The ship was south of Sicily awaiting further instructions from the authorities.

The Alexander Maersk changed course after picking up a distress call Friday, a spokesman for Maersk Line said, without specifying where the migrtants were rescued.

The urgency of finding a solution was highlighted by the plight of the Lifeline, the second rescue vessel left adrift in the Mediterranean after Italy and neighbouring Malta refused it permission to dock.

"The European Council will not yet provide an overall solution to the migration problem", Merkel said conceding a lack of consensus among EU members.

Steier said 14 women and four children were among those on board.

But the issue has in the meantime won and lost elections for politicians across the bloc from Italy to Hungary, with voters favoring those advocating a tougher stance on migration.

But the Aquarius defiantly vowed to continue its work and an AFP photographer on board said Saturday that it was now responding to distress call in Tunisian waters.

"That's not how it works in politics, but if we meet and talk to each other it will clear the air, ' Rutte said on Sunday following an informal 'mini-summit" in Brussels to discuss the migration crisis.

Merkel asked for the meeting after German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer threatened a government crisis by pushing to seal the country's borders to new migrants.

She made the remarks upon her arrival here at the summit, saying that there is still no solution to the migration problem involving all 28 member states.

According to the Italian media the national coastguard sent a message to rescue boats operating in the Mediterranean advising them that Italy would no longer be their first point of reference.

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