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5 EU Countries to Share Some of 450 Stranded Migrants

FILE - Migrants look at the coastline as they stand aboard a rescue ship, off the coast of Sicily, May 14, 2018.

Five EU countries have agreed to accept some of the nearly 450 migrants being transported aboard two military ships stuck off the coast of Sicily, Italian Prime Minister Giueseppe Conte said Sunday.

Germany, Spain and Portugal each agreed Sunday to accept 50 of the migrants after France and Malta agreed to do the same on Saturday.

But the Czech Republic rebuffed the appeal, calling the distribution plan a "road to hell.''

The two ships, one belonging to the European Union border agency Frontex and another to the Italian border police, have been stranded in Italian waters after hardline Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said the vessels should be sent to Malta, "or better Libya," from where the migrants had originally set sail.

Italy's new populist government, which came to power on June 1, has upended years of migrant policy by banning ships run by migration charities from docking in Italian ports, accusing them of aiding human traffickers.

Salvini, who has vowed not to take in any more migrants unless the burden is shared by other EU countries, repeated that Sunday, telling reporters the "aim was for brotherly redistribution'' of the 450 rescued passengers on the two ships.

The number of migrants arriving in Italy so far this year is down about 80 percent compared to 2017. Salvini has vowed to stop all arrivals except for war refugees and a few other exceptions.