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France, Italy tense over migrant border crisis

media Migrants rest on the platform of Ventimiglia railway station, near the Italian-French border, 18 June 2015. Reuters/Eric Gaillard

French President François Hollande and Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi played down tensions on Sunday over a migrant border crisis which has sparked protest and strong words between the two countries’ interior ministers. 

“I don’t think there are tensions between us,” said Renzi. “Sometimes ministers can let themselves go with statements, it’s like engaged couples who have been together a long time.”

Hollande stressed that the border had not been closed although French police have been stopping hundreds of asylum seekers at the frontier town of Ventimiglia for weeks.

“We are applying the rules,” said Hollande in reference to the Dublin agreement which obliges migrants to apply for asylum in the country where they first arrive.

“The problem is not just Ventimiglia, it’s Europe’s problem,” said Renzi ahead of a European summit this week which is expected to focus on the relocation of asylum seekers.

Rome cannot “bear the burden for the others”, Hollande said, adding that the EU should find a plan to provide shelter to those in need and repatriate economic migrants.

Almost 60,000 migrants arrived in Italy this year - 740 were brought to Calabria on Sunday - and many hope to reach countries with better job prospects.

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