NICE, France –
A maritime rescue ship docked Friday in a southern French port carrying 230 migrants whose fates have sparked a diplomatic row between France and Italy — a dispute that is threatening EU efforts to share round asylum-seekers.
The French welcome for the Ocean Viking, although reluctant, unleashed fury from far-right rivals of the French authorities. Migrant advocates expressed aid, however lamented that it took weeks to discover a harbor for the ship as Italy refused to let it dock, and vowed Friday to ship their vessels again out to the Mediterranean to save lots of others in misery.
The Ocean Viking disembarked its passengers on the Toulon port, the place they have been present process well being and safety checks at a army base, Var area prefect Evence Richard stated. They have been then despatched in buses to the Mediterranean resort of Giens the place they have been anticipated to start out asylum software procedures.
The passengers from Eritrea, Egypt, Syria, Bangladesh, Pakistan and different nations embrace 57 youngsters, in response to European rescue group SOS Mediterranee, which operates the ship. The youngest passenger is a 3-year-old, and greater than 40 are unaccompanied minors.
Some on the ship have been rescued in the Mediterranean Sea three weeks in the past, the group stated. The French coast guard boarded the Ocean Viking Thursday to assist 4 passengers who wanted pressing medical consideration ashore.
The ship turned the reason for a rift between France and Italy after Rome finally granted three different non-public rescue ships permission to dock in Italy however refused the Ocean Viking. Premier Giorgia Meloni then praised France for taking the migrants in, though the French authorities had not stated so publicly.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin stated the passengers would in the end be divided amongst France and different European Union international locations.
As obvious retaliation for Italy’s conduct, Darmanin introduced France’s withdrawal from a “solidarity” mechanism accredited in June to scale back the stress on front-line international locations akin to Greece, Italy and Spain by taking in asylum-seekers. French officers additionally introduced new border checks with Italy.
While politicians battled over the 230 folks aboard the Ocean Viking, they’re a fraction of these fleeing world crises this yr and looking for refuge in Europe.
From January to August this yr, France acquired 82,535 asylum requests, greater than any EU nation however Germany. Italy got here in fifth, with 43,750 asylum purposes.
France’s response appeared to have taken Italy unexpectedly. Italy’s Meloni on Friday lashed again at what she stated was France’s “aggressive,” “incomprehensible and unjustified” measures.
The premier stated she had a voter mandate to vary the best way Europe offers with mass migration and that Italy would now not settle for being the primary disembarkation level for would-be asylum-seekers crossing the Mediterranean.
“That’s not written in any settlement,” she stated, noting that Italy has taken in practically 90,000 migrants thus far this yr. The EU redistribution accord referred to as for 8,000 of them to be resettled in 13 member international locations; up to now 117 have been relocated, 38 of them to France.
“Something in this mechanism is not working,” Meloni stated.
Advocacy teams agree that France has been very gradual in processing asylum-seekers as a part of the sharing settlement.
The SOS Mediterranee stated Friday it plans to ship the Ocean Viking again to sea “regardless of the obstacles.” Doctors Without Borders, whose Geo Barents ship was additionally caught in the latest migration drama, stated the identical: “These operations are and would be the response to irresponsible European and nationwide insurance policies of refusing to assist these at sea.”
Italian information studies stated French President Emmanuel Macron and Meloni had agreed on the U.N. local weather summit in Egypt that France would take in the Ocean Viking, however that the Italian authorities had undermined the verbal accord by prematurely claiming victory in the standoff.
France’s actions empowered Meloni’s center-left opponents, who stated the end result confined Italy from its European companions at a time it wants European solidarity to cope with mass migration and different points.
“Shows of energy over migrants not solely do not repay however provoke worldwide isolation and a lack of credibility,” tweeted lawmaker Piero Fassino of the Democratic Party. “Getting into fights with companions like France is mistaken, particularly if you want allies, which we now will not discover.”
In France, far-right politicians unleashed a barrage of criticism towards Macron.
“Enough is sufficient,” Jordan Bardella, president of the far-right National Rally. “Immigration to France isn’t an unconditional proper.”
The uproar on the far proper in each international locations over Mediterranean Sea migrants stands in sharp distinction to the international locations’ welcome of thousands and thousands of Ukrainians who’ve fled after the Russian invasion.
Winfield reported from Rome. Daniel Cole in Toulon and Giers, France and Renata Brito in Barcelona contributed.