France allows Ocean Viking to dock, strongly rebukes Italy

Paris, Nov 10 (EFE).- France will allow the Ocean Viking humanitarian ship, which is carrying over 230 migrants who were rescued in the Mediterranean over two weeks ago, to dock in the country, interior minister Gérald Darmanin said Thursday, while strongly criticizing Italy for its anti-migrant stance.

Italy’s new far-right government has pledged to stop migration flows from the Middle East and North Africa, and has been at loggerheads with human rights organizations and other European nations over its refusal to let rescue ships dock at its ports since coming to power last month.

Addressing a press conference, Darmanin said France had taken the “exceptional” decision to “counteract the unacceptable behavior of the Italian government” and allow the Ocean Viking to sail to the southern military port of Toulon, where it is expected to arrive on Friday morning.

“France deeply regrets that Italy has chosen not to behave like a responsible European partner,” Darmanin said, adding that Paris would be suspending a relocation agreement with Italy “with immediate effect” that would have seen France take in some 3,500 migrants over the next few months.

France will also reinforce border controls with Italy, he said.

“It is the Italian government that loses out,” the minister said, warning that “there will be extremely severe consequences for the bilateral relationship” and for Italy’s relations with the European Union.

Darmanin said Germany has agreed to take in a third of the migrants aboard the Ocean Viking, adding that a number of other European partners were also assisting in relocating the migrants onto their territory.

French authorities are expected to call a meeting with the European Commission and Germany in the coming days to address the consequences of Italy’s anti-migrant stance, government spokesperson Olivier Veran said.

A spokesman for SOS Méditerranée told EFE that they welcomed the news that they will be allowed to disembark in Toulon as “a bitter relief”, after 20 days at sea.

The leader of the French far-right, Marine Le Pen, was quick to criticize the government’s move to allow the rescue ship to dock.

“By accepting for the first time that a boat disembark migrants in a French port, Emmanuel Macron is sending a dramatic sign of permissiveness,” she wrote on Twitter. “With this decision, he can no longer make anyone believe that he wants to put an end to massive and anarchic immigration.” EFE


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