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Migrant crisis | Landing under tension



The saga ofocean viking ended on Friday. But the tension remains high between France and Italy, which accuse each other of all the evils.

What are we talking about?

This is another migrant story that is causing friction in Europe. In this case, that of theocean viking. After rescuing migrants in danger on the Mediterranean, this ambulance ship, chartered by the humanitarian organization SOS Méditerranée, wanted to dock in Italy… which refused it access to the port, leaving its 234 passengers, including 57 children, wander for three weeks off the coast of Sicily. A story that is reminiscent of that of theAquarius in 2018, on which Malta and Italy had turned their backs, sparking a political crisis in the European Union.


Migrants preparing to disembark fromocean vikingFriday

Why friction?

France finally agreed to host theocean viking, which anchored at the port of Toulon on Friday and left on Saturday, “exceptionally” and under a “duty of humanity”, according to the Minister of the Interior of France, Gérald Darmanin . The latter, however, did not fail to castigate the new far-right government of Giorgia Meloni, describing Italy as “very inhuman” and announcing, in the process, the immediate suspension of the reception of 3,500 migrants confined in Italy. , which were to be supported by France. France “will draw all the consequences of the Italian attitude on the other aspects of its bilateral relationship”, added Mr. Darmanin. The Prime Minister of Italy retorted that the French reaction was “aggressive, incomprehensible and unjustified”.


Vessel ocean viking approaching the military port of Toulon, in the south of France, on Friday

Why did Italy refuse to dock theocean viking ?

According to maritime law, survivors of the sea must be dropped off at one of the nearest ports. This responsibility often falls to Italy, for obvious geographical reasons, the latter being only 300 km from the Libyan coast, from where most of the migrants who attempt the crossing leave. But Giorgia Meloni, an assumed post-fascist politician, is clearly seeking to display her anti-immigration colors, two months after her election. Reacting to the accusations from Paris, she recalled on Thursday that her country had taken in nearly 90,000 migrants this year, while the European countries which had pledged to help and take care of 8,000 people had not finally taken in. than 117.


Giorgia Meloni, Prime Minister of Italy

What future for these survivors of the sea?

The 230 migrants, mostly from the Arab world or sub-Saharan Africa, have been placed in a “waiting zone”, where the examination of asylum applications will take place. According to the French authorities, 175 of them will be distributed in 11 countries of the European Union, including Germany, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Luxembourg and Ireland, under the provisions of the European Union. France promises for its part that it will accept a third of it. It’s already too much for the leader of the National Rally, Marine Le Pen, who accuses the government of “laxity”, two weeks after one of its deputies launched a “let them go back to Africa!” resounding, in full National Assembly.


The majority of migrants rescued by theocean viking were temporarily transferred to the Giens peninsula, near Toulon, where the Red Cross distributed clothing to them.

Is the migration crisis not over?

It will probably take some getting used to. According to the International Organization for Migration, 88,000 migrants have reached the Italian coast since January 2022, while 1,891 people have disappeared at sea trying to reach Europe, during the same period.

There is no indication that the flow will stop. But for the president of SOS Méditerranée, François Thomas, it is clear that the standoff around theocean viking should not happen again. “It is not normal to disembark at this distance from the rescue sites,” he said on Friday during a press conference in Marseille.

The director of operations, Xavier Lauth, said for his part that the NGO would “go back to sea” as soon as possible. ” Why ? Because there are already more than 1,300 deaths this year in the central Mediterranean Sea, because there have been more than 20,000 deaths since 2014 in the Mediterranean Sea and we do not accept that this sea becomes a cemetery … »

Sources: Agence France-Presse, France Inter, The Parisian, The worldBBC, International Organization for Migration

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