Rescue ship heads to France after Italy refuses refuge for migrants

A European charity ship carrying 234 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean has headed for France after being criticized by Paris after Italy’s new right-wing government refused to allow it to board.

French government spokesman Olivier Veran said it was “unacceptable” that Rome had stopped the Ocean Viking, operated by the SOS Méditerranée charity, at its port and refused to allow men, women and children to disembark for three weeks.

Veran also called on the government led by Giorgia Meloni, a member of Italy’s hard-right Brotherhood, to respect “European involvement” and maritime laws that require Italy to handle shipwrecks in its waters. Meloni campaigned in September on a promise to stem the flow of migrants from North Africa to Italy, including a naval blockade if necessary.

“There are very clear European rules accepted by the Italians, who are the biggest beneficiaries of the European financial cohesion mechanism,” Veran told French radio on Wednesday about the EU’s pandemic recovery fund. “The Italian government’s refusal to allow the boats to arrive is against all European regulations.”

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SOS Méditerranée said the Ocean Viking left for France on Tuesday evening after Italian authorities refused to respond to repeated requests for asylum, including 40 children and several as young as four.

The charity said it had not yet received confirmation that France would allow the migrants to land, but Veran said: “Obviously no one will allow them to be put in danger.”

“We want to play a role in Italy,” he added. “People call them migrant boats, but I remind you that these are people.”

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The French government’s harsh criticism of Meloni’s government came hours after he made the announcement. . . By opening the ports to the Sea Vikings.

A spokesman for the Italian government did not respond to a request for comment.

On Tuesday night, Italy agreed to disembark 248 people aboard two separate rescue ships operated by charities in Catania, Sicily, ending a tense dispute over the fate of Italy and charities.

Italy has been heavily criticized by international organizations, including the UN refugee agency, Amnesty International and other charities, for trying to turn asylum seekers back into international waters.

Over the weekend, Italy allowed three charity ships to dock, while Rome chose to let only the most vulnerable, including children and pregnant women, ashore. Two ships with 248 men were then ordered to leave. However, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and SOS Humanity, the charity that operates the ship, rejected the order and asked for passengers to be re-examined.

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On Tuesday, Italian doctors concluded that the 213 people aboard MSF’s Geo Barents and the 35 on the Humanitarian 1, all of whom had been aboard the Spartan ship for weeks, were fragile and met the criteria for disembarkation.

However, Meloni pledged that his government would continue efforts to prevent them from crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

“We want to stop illegal immigration, prevent more deaths at sea and fight human traffickers,” he said on Facebook. “Citizens asked us to protect Italy’s borders and this government will not break its promise.”


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