"The France wants a position of firmness," hammered the minister, invited on the set of TF1. The case of asylum seekers, for example for political reasons, is of course different, Darmanin conceded, who however played down their presence among the migrants disembarked in Lampedusa.

"It is not by welcoming more people that we will dry up a flow that obviously affects our integration capacities," he continued.

"On the other hand, we told our Italian friends that we were ready to help them to return people to countries with which we have good diplomatic relations," Darmanin added, citing Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal.

The minister was speaking the day after a visit to Rome to his transalpine counterpart, while Italy is facing a significant acceleration in the arrival of migrants on the island of Lampedusa, located between Tunisia and Sicily.

Between Monday and Wednesday, about 8,500 people, more than the entire population of Lampedusa, arrived on 199 boats, according to the UN migration agency.

This situation has put the island's reception capacities under great strain, generated a political shockwave in Italy and revived the thorny issue of European solidarity in the reception and distribution of asylum seekers, to support the countries on the front line of these arrivals.

On the subject of asylum seekers, Mr. Darmanin admitted that it was necessary to "distinguish" their situation from that of the majority of migrants, while referring this responsibility to the Italian authorities.

"If people are eligible for asylum, (if) they are persecuted sexually, politically, religiously, obviously it is the duty of the France like other European countries to welcome them," he said.

But he played down the presence of asylum seekers among the migrants in Lampedusa, saying the majority were not fleeing persecution.

"They are not Afghans, they are not Syrians," he insisted.

The minister also announced that he had decided to "strengthen" controls at the Franco-Italian border: the number of police and gendarmerie dedicated to this task will increase from 500 to 700, he said.

© 2023 AFP