(Marseille) Calls multiplied on Friday for Italy to respect international law and finally grant a safe port to boats that rescued hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean, Paris saying it was ready to welcome women and children.
“International law is very clear: when a boat asks to dock with shipwrecked people on board, it is the nearest safest port which must welcome it, in this case Italy”, declared Friday the French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on the RMC / BFMTV channels, stating that he “had an exchange” with his Italian counterpart.
“We have told our Italian friends, together with our German friends, that we are obviously ready to take some of the women and children, as we have done previously,” he added.
More than 1,000 migrants trying to reach Europe are currently on rescue ships at sea, including 234 on theocean viking of the NGO SOS Méditerranée, which operates in partnership with the International Federation of the Red Cross, and 572 on the Geo Barents of Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Added to these are those on board theHumanity1 of the German NGO SOS Humanity and the Rise Above of the Lifeline organization.
All of them are close to Italy.
As of Thursday, Germany had sent a diplomatic note to Italy, asking “the Italian government to provide rapid assistance” in view of the humanitarian emergency. Faced with the deteriorating weather at sea, the NGO SOS Méditerranée, headquartered in Marseille, had indeed urged France, Spain and Greece to help it find a port of disembarkation as quickly as possible. .
So far, 20 requests for safe harbors have been made by the NGO without success.
“We welcome the mobilization of France to find a solution allowing theocean viking and to the various search and rescue vessels stranded at sea, to disembark as soon as possible and as close as possible to Italy”, reacted SOS Méditerranée on Friday.
“We are facing an absolute emergency and any additional day of waiting could have serious consequences”, warned the director and co-founder of the NGO Sophie Beau.
On theocean vikingwhich is off the coast of Sicily, “rescued passengers are calm, although some are beginning to show signs of seasickness. Today is exactly two weeks since the first rescue operation”, explained to the AFP a photographer present on board.
“The sea is getting bigger and bigger. It is raining and the rain should redouble in the evening, ”he testified.
“We must avoid additional suffering for people who have already suffered ill-treatment and violence in the camps in Libya,” also asked the Italian Catholic community of Sant’Egidio, which plays the role of informal diplomatic arm of the Vatican.
With the arrival of the extreme right to power in Rome, Italian leaders have multiplied anti-migrant declarations.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi has announced that he has issued a directive warning police forces and port authorities that his ministry is considering a ban on entry into the territorial waters of theocean viking and Geo Barentsboth under the Norwegian flag.
“There are so many other safe ports”, hammered on Friday the head of Italian diplomacy, Antonio Tajani. “If you want to enter Italian waters, you have to know who is on board, how many women, how many children, if they have the right to asylum, and everyone on board must be identified. We need to know who is coming to Italy, it’s a matter of security,” he said.
The Sant’Egidio community on Friday called on “Europe, and in particular the countries whose NGOs are flying the flag, to find an agreement to relocate asylum seekers” who have arrived on Italian soil.
But the Norwegian government declined to AFP any “responsibility […] towards persons embarked” on board ships.
For the director general of the association for aid to migrants France Terre d’Asile, Delphine Rouilleault, on Twitter, a “standoff […] is without a doubt an obligatory step in order not to let Italy trample on international law”.
Since the beginning of the year, 1,765 migrants have disappeared in the Mediterranean, including 1,287 in the central Mediterranean, the most dangerous migratory route in the world, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
According to the Italian Interior Ministry, 85,991 people arrived by sea in Italy between 1er January and November 2, 2022, half of whom are nationals of Tunisia, Egypt and Bangladesh.