The Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, described this Friday as “aggressive” and “disproportionate” France’s reaction after Italy rejected the reception of the 234 migrants, including 57 children, aboard the humanitarian ship ocean viking. The Italian president has declared: “The ocean viking that today has docked in a French port is the first ship of an NGO that does so in France and carries 234 migrants, which has generated a very harsh reaction with respect to a nation, Italy, which since the beginning of the year has received almost 90,000 migrants in their national territory. Meloni has also called for “a European solution” to the migration problem. As a retaliatory measure, Paris has announced the suspension of a plan to welcome 3,500 refugees who are currently in the transalpine country.
The arrival in France of ocean vikingwhich docked this Friday at the French naval base in Toulon (southeast of the country), has generated a confrontation between Paris and Rome over the Italian government’s rejection of the ship disembarking the migrants in its territory to then proceed to a distribution between several European countries.
the humanitarian ship ocean viking rescued the 234 migrants three weeks ago in Mediterranean waters, off the coast of Libya. The vessel received permission from France to proceed to France’s coast after unsuccessfully requesting a safe harbor in Italy. The ship arrived at the Toulon dock around nine in the morning and, immediately afterwards, “its passengers began to disembark”, the prefect of the region, Evence Richard, explained at a press conference.
Laurence Bondard, from the NGO SOS Méditerranée, which operates the ship, told the AFP news agency: “There is a lot of excitement on board, everyone is very, very tired, but relieved to reach land. It is the end of an ordeal.” This is the first landing in France of a rescue ship helping migrants in the Mediterranean.
The government of Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, has argued that other countries must take more responsibility for hosting migrants trying to reach Europe from North Africa each year.
The French Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, criticized Italy’s inaction on Thursday: “It is exceptional that we welcome this ship, taking into account the fifteen days of waiting at sea that the Italian authorities have made passengers suffer”. The minister criticized the “incomprehensible” behavior and contrary to “international law” of Italy, and has warned that there will be “consequences” in bilateral relations.
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SOS Méditerranée spokeswoman Meryl Sotty told AFP that a doctor came aboard before it docked to identify the most vulnerable passengers and disembark them first, followed by children, women and families.
The migrants will be held in a holding area until their asylum applications are processed. In the case of people who do not have the right to request asylum or who may pose a security risk, the procedure will be initiated “so that they return to their countries of origin”, said the Director General of Immigration, Éric Jalon.
Darmanin explained that there will be nine European countries responsible for receiving two thirds of the migrants, and the remaining third will stay in France. Germany will host “more than 80″, while Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Luxembourg and Ireland will also contribute in the name of “European solidarity”, he detailed.
In retaliation for Italy’s stance, France has suspended a plan to host 3,500 refugees currently in Italy, as part of a European migrant sharing agreement, and urged Germany and other European Union (EU) countries ) to do the same. The French police announced this Friday that they have already reinforced controls at several border crossings with Italy.
France considers that, under international maritime law, Italy should host the ocean viking. Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said this week that he was sending a signal to EU nations that they should help Italy more on the issue of receiving migrants. Under international law, ships in distress or with rescued people must be allowed to dock at the nearest port.
This implies that Italy and Malta are the landing lands for most of the migrants setting sail from Libya. In June, a dozen European countries, including France, agreed to accept migrants entering through Italy and other countries. Tajani has explained that Rome’s reluctance to admit ships is a maneuver to pressure the EU to adopt a more active role. Rome wants “an agreement to establish, based on the population (of each country), how to relocate migrants with the right to asylum,” said Tajani. So far this year, only 164 migrants have been transferred from Italy to other countries, which Rome considers insufficient. Since January 1, more than 88,000 people have arrived on its shores.
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