Boat carrying over 900 migrants docks in Italy

The co-founder of the SOS Mediterranee charity says three ships carrying 629 migrants are expected to arrive around Saturday night at the Spanish port of Valencia, depending on weather conditions.

It would also represent a complete reversal of the open-doors migrant policy she adopted in 2015, which saw more than 1 million migrants enter Germany and is seen as having fuelled a sharp rise in support for the rightwing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and caused deep rifts within her conservative bloc.

"With my German and Austrian colleagues. we will propose a new [immigration] initiative", Salvini said, adding that it would apply both to the EU's external borders and to how member states manage migrants internally.

But after Italy and Malta refused entry to the ship, two Italian boats escorted the migrants to Spain - co-operated by SOS Mediterranee and Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), who offered them "safe harbour".

On Tuesday, Griveaux said the French government would not have allowed the Aquarius to dock at one of its ports.

Mr Salvini told the Senate: "We have nothing to learn about generosity, voluntarism, welcoming, and solidarity from anyone".

Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi summoned the ambassador to a morning meeting "following the statements made yesterday in Paris on the Aquarius affair", his ministry said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

"The same can not be said of France, which has often adopted much more rigid and cynical immigration policies".

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A day after French President Emmanuel Macron said Rome had acted with "cynicism and irresponsibility" by closing its ports to a migrant ship, Italy's economy minister canceled a Paris meeting with his counterpart, and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte weighed postponing a meeting with Macron scheduled for Friday.

The chancellor said migration represented a significant challenge for Europe when it was in a "very fragile situation".

Ms Merkel spoke after Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, a top CSU leader, called for Germany to ally itself with Austria, governed by a right-wing coalition, and Italy on migration and security policies.

They were saved during several rescue operations off the coast of Libya.

The country has seen more than 700,000 migrants arrive on its shores since 2013.

The M5S-League government says that current European Union rules, which require migrants to seek asylum wherever in Europe they first arrive, leave Italy and its southern neighbours bearing the brunt of mass migration across the Mediterranean. "The coastguard and navy can continue to save lives, but other countries need to keep giving us a hand", he said.

France's Finance Ministry hoped to shortly reschedule a meeting with Italian Economy Minister Giovanni Tria that was canceled in the midst of a row over immigration, a French government source said.

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