Catholic Church leader Pope Francis said the European Union member nations have to come together and collaborate on unified policy and help migrants.

Pope Francis answers reporters' questions during the flight back to Rome, after his apostolic journey to Bahrain, on November 6, 2022.
Pope Francis answers reporters' questions during the flight back to Rome, after his apostolic journey to Bahrain, on November 6, 2022. (AFP)

Pope Francis has said European Union member states should share responsibility for taking in migrants and not just leave it to the countries where people arrive.

He spoke on Sunday as migration triggered fresh political tensions in Italy, where there has been a stand-off between the government and charity ships trying to disembark migrants.

"The European Union has to take up a policy of collaboration and help. It can't leave Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Spain with the responsibility of all the migrants that arrive on their shores," he told reporters on the plane returning from a four-day trip to Bahrain.

"Each government of the European Union should agree on how many migrants it can take," Francis said.

"Migration policy has to be agreed upon by all countries. There can't be a policy without consensus," he said.

Matteo Salvini, head of Italy's anti-immigrant League party and deputy prime minister in the new right-wing government, thanked the pope for his "words of great wisdom".

"Italy cannot be left alone and cannot take in everyone," Salvini added in a statement.

READ MORE: Türkiye rescues hundreds of migrants after illegal Greek pushbacks

Italy accused of breaching law of sea

Humanitarian groups on Sunday said Italy had broken international law by refusing to let in migrants plucked from the sea.

Separately, Amnesty International urged Italy to stop discriminating, saying "the law of the sea is clear; a rescue ends when all those rescued are disembarked in a place of safety".

As rescue ships in Catania waited for permission to disembark every last person, a migrant rescue hotline said some 500 others had run into difficulty on the perilous Mediterranean crossing.

A father carrying a baby in a purple beanie was among the first to get off Geo Barents, a ship run by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

He was one of the lucky 357 people allowed off.

Italy refused entry to 215 others.

Earlier in the day authorities accepted 144 people including children and the sick from a ship, but rejected 35 adult male migrants.

READ MORE: Turkish drone records fresh Greek pushback of migrants in Aegean Sea

Source: Reuters