Italy’s stance on migrant ship ‘unacceptable’ – Paris
The French government has condemned Rome for not allowing rescued migrants to be offloaded on Italian soil
Italy has breached EU norms by refusing to allow a charity-run rescue ship with more than 200 migrants on board to dock in its ports, the French government has said. After being turned away by Italy, the vessel requested permission to offload the migrants in France.
“The current attitude of the Italian government … is unacceptable,” Olivier Veran, a spokesman for the French government, told France Info radio on Wednesday. “The ship is in Italian territorial waters. There are extremely clear European rules that have been accepted by the Italians … This ship is intended to be admitted by Italy.”
Veran added that Rome must “play its role and respect its European commitments” by allowing the ship to dock on its shores. The spokesman said the French authorities are closely monitoring the situation with the vessel as negotiations with Italy are underway.
The indignation came after Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni released a statement on Tuesday implying that Paris had agreed to take in the Ocean Viking, a vessel operated by SOS Mediterranee, a group that rescues migrants at sea.
“We express our heartfelt appreciation for France’s decision to share the responsibility for the migration emergency, which until now has rested on the shoulders of Italy and few other Mediterranean states, by opening its ports to the Ocean Viking,” the statement said. France has not confirmed that it has allowed the ship to dock.
According to the charity, the 234 people on board the Ocean Viking were picked up from unseaworthy and overcrowded boats, some of them more than two weeks ago.
SOS Mediterranee Director Sophie Beau told AFP on Tuesday that the vessel was sailing in Sicilian waters and that the voyage to France would take at least two days. She said that the situation on board had “reached a critical point.”
Giles Simeoni, the head of the Chief Executive Council of Corsica, said on Tuesday that, “in order to avoid the loss of human life,” the French island is ready to temporarily admit the ship into one of its ports.
Several ships operated by rescue groups are currently awaiting permission to dock in European ports. On Sunday, Italy allowed two vessels to offload select groups of migrants in Sicily. Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi said, however, that those who do not qualify as “vulnerable” must leave Italian waters.