Italy’s policy of keeping its ports closed to ships carrying rescued migrants has raised tensions between Rome and Paris.
This came as Italy’s new coalition government led by Giorgia Meloni, who took office on Oct. 22, did not open its ports to European-based NGO ships that demanded a safe harbor for the migrants they rescued in the Mediterranean in recent weeks.
Italy later decided to allow some of the migrants to leave two of the ships, citing emergency health conditions.
Under the new decree pushed by hardline Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, Italy now applies a “selective” approach in deciding who can disembark from the charity boats.
Those who do not qualify as “vulnerable” would have to leave Italian waters and should be taken care of by the “flag state,” according to the new rules.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Thursday that the Ocean Viking ship, operated by the SOS Mediterranee, which has 234 people on board has been granted an “exceptional status” to dock at the military port of Toulon.
The Italian government’s insistence to not accept the ship is “unacceptable behavior,” he said at a news conference.
“France deeply regrets that Italy has decided not to behave like a responsible European state in dealing with this matter,” the French minister is quoted as saying by local media.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani described the remarks by France on the issue as “disproportionate.”
Tajani said that other countries have not done much in the program of redistributing migrants within the EU, adding that 8,000 people should be distributed from Italy, but this number remains at 117.
Separately, the Italian interior minister also criticized the statements by the French side and claimed that France has so far accepted only 234 migrants while Italy has taken in 90,000.
“What we don’t understand is why Italy should willingly accept something that others are not willing to accept,” he noted.
Xavier Lauth, director of operations at SOS Mediterranee, said that he welcomed France’s decision to accept refugees, but added: “This solution has a bitter taste.”
“Disembarking almost three weeks after their rescue, so far from the area of operation in the central Mediterranean, is the result of a dramatic failure from all the European states, which have violated maritime law in an unprecedented manner,” he said.__The Nation