Italy Calls for Sharing Refugees

LUXEMBOURG (AP) -- Italy urged reluctant European Union partners on Tuesday to sign up to a plan to share 40,000 refugees, as police forcibly removed migrants trying to cross their common border.

At a meeting of EU interior ministers, Italy's Angelino Alfano called for solidarity with front-line countries Italy and Greece as tens of thousands of migrants cross the Mediterranean in search of sanctuary in the EU.

"We are working to avoid the political bankruptcy of Europe," Alfano told reporters in Luxembourg.

The ministers were meeting to debate a plan for obligatory relocation of Syrian and Eritrean refugees to other European countries over the next two years. Only about 10 of the EU's 28 nations support the plan and even those that do disagree with the calculations for distributing the refugees.

Earlier Tuesday, police in Ventimiglia on Italy's border with France forcibly removed a few dozen African migrants who have been camping out for days in hopes of continuing their journeys farther north.

Some migrants held onto signposts and others tried to resist being loaded onto a Red Cross bus. Migrants on rocks jutting out into the sea were left alone, with police apparently unwilling to move into a more treacherous location.

Alfano said that the scene in Ventimiglia is "a punch in the eye for those who refuse to see."

His French counterpart, Bernard Cazaneuve, denied that France has closed its border there.

"When migrants cross borders and it is established that they arrived in Italy, then it is only normal that they return to Italy," Cazaneuve told reporters in Luxembourg.

"We have agreements and we are currently doing checks to ensure that those agreements are respected," he said.

Meanwhile in Greece, hundreds of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, including women and children, protested Monday on the eastern island of Lesvos, demanding better living conditions and faster processing of their registration.

They also want to be housed separately from Afghan arrivals after a fight broke out in one of the island's camps.

(KA)