Italy: hundreds of migrants stranded at sea, tensions between Paris and Rome

DHundreds of migrants remained stranded on Tuesday evening off Italy on humanitarian ships, in particular that of the NGO SOS Méditerranée, the Ocean Viking, whose fate sparked a diplomatic bickering between France and Italy in the evening. .

After days or even weeks at sea, three ambulance ships that rescued migrants attempting to cross between the North African coasts and Europe have obtained permission to dock in Italian ports.

But Rome only authorized some of the survivors to go down to the quay, to the chagrin of humanitarian organizations.

The “Rise Above”, ship of the German NGO Lifeline, was able to bring down Tuesday morning in Reggio Calabria, in the southern tip of the Italian boot, all of the 89 migrants on board. Six migrants were evacuated on Sunday for medical reasons.

The German-flagged ship Humanity 1, of the NGO SOS Humanity, was authorized to dock on Sunday in Catania, Sicily, to disembark 144 people, mainly women and minors. But Italy refused 35 adult men.

The Geo Barents, a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) ship flying the Norwegian flag, also docked in Catania on Sunday evening: 357 people were able to disembark, including children, but entry was refused to 215 others.

Among them were two Syrians who jumped into harbor waters on Monday, while a third person dived in to rescue them. Safe and sound, they slept in a van on the quay and will be able to apply for asylum, Democratic Senator Antonio Nicita told AFP.

A new medical inspection should take place on Tuesday on board the Geo Barents where an epidemic of scabies is raging, he explained.

The refusal to accommodate all the passengers of these ships “puts them in danger and violates Italy’s obligations vis-à-vis human rights”, estimated Tuesday the NGO Human Rights Watch.

International and European law “guarantees the right to seek asylum and bans collective expulsions”, she recalled.

Anxiety and depression

The Ocean Viking, of the European NGO SOS Méditerranée, which also flies the flag of Norway, has however not received the green light to dock in Italy. He was sailing Tuesday morning off the Sicilian port of Syracuse, a photographer on board told AFP.

“Faced with the deafening silence of Italy”, SOS Méditerranée said it had asked France on Tuesday to assign a safe port to the Ocean Viking which “should arrive in international waters near Corsica on November 10”.

“This extreme solution is the result of a critical and dramatic failure of all member states of the European Union and associated states to facilitate the designation of a place of safety”, insisted the NGO in its press release.

The French government on Tuesday evening denounced the “unacceptable behavior” of the Italian authorities which is “contrary to the law of the sea and the spirit of European solidarity”, a French government source told AFP.

“We expect something different from a country which is today the first beneficiary of the European solidarity mechanism,” she added.

Earlier in the evening, the new far-right Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had thanked France which, according to her, agreed to welcome the Ocean Viking – which collected 234 migrants – in one of its ports.

But the French Ministry of the Interior clarified that the ship was “for the moment” in “Italian waters”, “until tomorrow (Wednesday, editor’s note) noon at least”.

Italy’s new government, the most right-wing since World War II, has pledged to take a hard line on migrants.

He calls for greater solidarity from European countries in welcoming migrants and believes that the states under whose flag the boats sail must do their part.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Germany was the EU country with the highest number of asylum applications in 2021 (148,200), ahead of France (89,400), Spain (65,400), the United Kingdom (56,500) and Italy (43,800).

Italy has seen this year a sharp increase in entries into its territory by sea, according to figures from the Ministry of the Interior, with 88,100 people arriving on its coasts since January 1 against nearly 56,000 and 30,400 respectively over the same period. of 2021 and 2020, years of the health crisis.

Only 14% of migrants entering the country this year were rescued and disembarked by humanitarian NGO ships, according to the ministry.

09/11/2022 00:51:59 – Catania (Italy) (AFP) – © 2022 AFP

Italy: hundreds of migrants stranded at sea, tensions between Paris and Rome