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Macron backs sanctions on EU states that refuse migrants

Ludovic Marin, AFP | France's President Emmanuel Macron welcomed Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to the Élysée Palace on June 23.

French President Emmanuel Macron came out Saturday in support of financial sanctions against EU countries which refuse to accept migrants.

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"We can not have countries that benefit hugely from EU solidarity and claim national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants," he said at a press conference in Paris alongside Spain's new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

"I am in favour of sanctions being imposed in the event of no cooperation," he said.

On the eve of a mini-summit about the divisive migration issue, the two leaders also declared support for the creation of closed reception centres where migrants would be held while their asylum claims are considered.

Macron and Sanchez press conference

The centres would be set up near to where migrants often arrive first in Europe.

"Once on European soil, we are in favour of setting up closed centres in accordance with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)... so that each country takes people who are entitled to asylum in an organised way," Macron said.

Tensions abound ahead of mini EU summit on migrants

There are currently no closed migrant centres where applications are processed, with the exception of a few cases in Greece and Italy managed by the UNHCR.

For migrants not entitled to asylum, they should be returned directly to their country of origin and not via other countries, Macron added.

But Macron's comments drew a scathing response from Italy's new populist government.

Far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini denounced Macron's "arrogance" over the migrant issue.

"Six-hundred-and-fifty thousand landings in four years, 430,000 applications..., 170,000 apparent refugees currently housed in hotels, buildings and apartments at a cost exceeding five billion euros,"Salvini said on Saturday.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

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