Rescue ship heads to France after Italy refuses asylum to migrants
A European charity ship carrying 234 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean has set sail for France after Italy’s new right-wing government refused to let the ship board, prompting fierce criticism from Paris.
French government spokesman Olivier Veran described Rome’s refusal to allow the Ocean Viking, operated by the charity SOS Méditerranée, to dock at its ports and allow the men, women and children in port, some for up to three weeks, to disembark as “unacceptable“.
Veran also called on the government, led by Giorgia Meloni of Italy’s hard-right Brotherhood party, to “respect its European engagements” and maritime laws that require Italy to handle ships that crash in its waters. Maloney campaigned in September’s election on a promise to stem the flow of migrants from North Africa to Italy, including through a naval blockade if necessary.
“There are too simple European rules, accepted by the Italians, who are the biggest beneficiaries of the European financial solidarity mechanism,” Veran told France Info radio on Wednesday, referring to the EU’s coronavirus pandemic recovery funds. “The attitude of the Italian government to deny the arrival of the ship is contrary to all European rules.”
SOS Méditerranée said the Ocean Viking set sail for France late on Tuesday after Italian authorities failed to respond to requests for port permission and asylum for its passengers, 40 of whom are children, some as young as four.
The charity said it had yet to receive any confirmation that the migrants would be allowed to disembark in France, although Verran said “clearly no one will allow them to be put at risk”.
“We want Italy to play its part,” he added. “People call this a migrant boat, but I remind you, these are people.”
Strong criticism of the French government Maloney’s government came hours after he issued a statement offering his “heartfelt gratitude for France’s decision to share responsibility for the migration emergency”. . . opening its ports to the Vikings of the ocean.’
An Italian government spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
Late on Tuesday, Italy allowed 248 people on two other charity rescue ships to disembark in Catania, Sicily, ending a tense standoff between Italy and charities. their fate.
Italy has been heavily criticized by international organisations, including the UN refugee agency, Amnesty International and other charities, for trying to push would-be asylum seekers back into international waters.
While Italy allowed three charity ships to board last weekend, Rome initially chose only those it deemed vulnerable, including children and pregnant women, to disembark. He then ordered two of the ships, carrying 248 people, to leave. However, the charities operating the ships, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Humanity, rejected the order and demanded further medical checks on their passengers.
On Tuesday, Italian doctors ruled that the 213 people on board MSF’s Geo Barents and 35 people on Humanity 1, many of whom had been on the Spartan ships for weeks, were all vulnerable and therefore met the criteria for disembarkation.
However, Maloney has promised that his government will continue efforts to prevent people from crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.
“We want to stop illegal immigration, prevent new deaths at sea and fight human traffickers,” he said in a statement on Facebook. “Citizens have asked us to protect Italy’s borders, and this government will not betray its promise.”
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