Emmanuel Macron's government announced that it will suspend the European plan to receive refugees arriving on Italian shores
Migrants aboard the Ocean Viking ( via Reuters)
France decided to host the humanitarian ship Ocean Viking “on an exceptional basis”.with 234 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, but he is going to “draw the consequences” of Italy's refusal to let him dock, he will take sanction measures against Rome and he wants the European Union to do the same.
“The Italian government is the one losing”, the French Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, said at a press conference, warning that “there will be extremely strong consequences in the bilateral relationship” and in Italy's relationship with the European Union.
He explained that France will suspend the plan to take in 3,500 refugees who are currently in Italy after Rome's refusal to let the charity ship disembark rescued migrants in the sea. In this way, he reverses what he had accepted in the European distribution agreement.
In addition, the minister urged Germany and other EU nations to also suspend the relocation agreements of migrants.
The Franco-Italian tensions are the latest episode in a European standoff over where to disembark migrants picked up after trying to reach Europe from North Africa, with Rome growing increasingly frustrated at taking in the bulk of those rescued.
The crew of the NGO rescue ship 'Ocean Viking' hands out life jackets to migrants (via Reuters)
The charity that runs the ship, SOS Mediterranee, had made the request to French authorities after Italy refused to allow access to the port during the last week, even as sanitary conditions worsened on board.
After Darmanin's announcement, SOS Mediterranee said they felt “relief tinged with bitterness.”
An isolated decision
A spokeswoman for the organization The charity previously told AFP that “one of the patients is unstable and no longer reacts to treatment since October 27.” “The other two were injured in Libya and, due to this long wait for treatment, they are at risk of long-term health problems,” she said.
France had insisted that, under international maritime law, Rome must grant access to the Ocean Viking and the 234 distressed migrants it rescued, especially after it this week granted access to three other rescue ships carrying hundreds of of people.
Darmanin said the decision to allow the ship to dock, after two weeks at sea, was “exceptional” and would not guide future action.
< p class="paragraph">But the arrival of Giorgia Meloni at the head of Italy's most right-wing government in decades could also trigger a repeat of the European struggles over migrants four years ago, when French President Emmanuel Macron , in particular, he clashed with the populist Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said this week that he was sending a signal to EU nations that they must play an even greater role.
Rome wants “a agreement to establish, based on population, how migrants with the right to asylum are relocated in different countries,” Tajani said before a meeting of EU ministers next week.
Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has also urged a rapid disembarkation and has warned that “politics should not be done at the expense of people in danger”.
The ship 'Ocean Viking'
Under international law, ships in distress or carrying rescued passengers must be cleared to enter the nearest port of call, meaning that Italy and often Malta are shouldering the burden of hosting those rescued after attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Libya.
In June, a dozen EU countries, including France, agreed to take in migrants arriving in Italy and other main entry points.
< p class="paragraph">So far this year, 164 asylum seekers have been transferred from Italy to other bloc nations that have offered to accept them.
But that is a tiny fraction of the more than 88,000 that have reached its shores so far this year, of which only 14% arrived after being rescued by NGO boats, according to Italian authorities.
According to the UN's International Organization for Migration, 1,891 immigrants have No one has died or disappeared trying to cross the Mediterranean so far this year.
(With information from AFP)