Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has accused the rest of Europe of trying to ignore the Mediterranean migrant crisis, after several states ruled out quotas for taking in asylum seekers.
“Europe cannot just say ‘out of sight, out of mind’,” he said, as he vowed to recover hundreds of bodies from a boat that sank last month.
Italy and Greece are struggling to cope with the surge in migration.
But France and Spain have joined the UK in rejecting an EU proposal for quotas.
Under the European Commission proposal, 20,000 asylum seekers would be distributed across the EU, in proportion to the size of a country’s economy, population and its rate of unemployment.
Germany would take the largest number – 18.4% – followed by France (14%), Italy (11.8%) and Spain (9%).
While France was initially positive, President Francois Hollande was adamant on Tuesday that there was “no question” of migrant quotas in Europe.
Spain also complained that the plan failed to take account of its 23.8% jobless rate as well as its own struggle with migration from North Africa.
The UK, Ireland and Denmark are exempt from the plan because of EU law, and Hungarian President Viktor Orban has condemned the idea as “bordering on insanity”.
Some 1,830 migrants have died at sea this year trying to reach Italy – a sharp rise on last year’s corresponding figures – and the EU approved a naval mission this week to target smugglers operating from the Libyan coast.
The Italian prime minister told Rai TV that his European partners had accepted that surge of migration across the Mediterranean should not be borne just by Italy, but now he feared it could be “simply hot air”.
“Those countries that have agreed to send their warships must also accept the quota principle, which is a principle of solidarity,” Mr Renzi said.
The UK has sent HMS Bulwark to the region to help in the rescue effort off the Libyan coast. But Mr Renzi complained that warships were picking up hundreds of migrants and then leaving them in Sicily for Italy to deal with on its own.
Addressing the sinking of a trawler last month in which some 800 people died, Mr Renzi said he wanted the whole world to see what happened.
“We will go get that boat, the one that sank with the carnage a month ago, and we will bring it back up,” he said.
“There are 500 to 600 bodies down there. The world has to see what happened.
“It is unacceptable that certain people should continue to say what the eye does not see, the heart does not grieve over.”