French rescue of ‘Ocean Viking’ fractures Paris-Rome relationship and undermines Giorgia Meloni’s normalization efforts

Up to the ” last minute “, the executive will have hoped that Italy respects international maritime law. In vain. Thursday, November 10 around noon, the humanitarian ship ocean viking, who had been heading for France for two days, was officially invited to disembark in the port of Toulon, definitively ruling out the hypothesis that Rome would eventually welcome the boat from the NGO SOS Méditerranée. On board, the 234 migrants that the association rescued in the central Mediterranean, off the coast of Libya, between October 22 and 26.

Denouncing the behavior “irresponsible” of Rome and its choice “incomprehensible” not to act, Paris has therefore “taken responsibility” and asserts its humanist face. The decision, announced by the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, is fully assumed by Emmanuel Macron, in ” First line “ on the file, underlines an adviser to the executive.

In 2018, in an approaching scenario, which saw Italy close its ports to SOS Méditerranée, the Head of State refused to welcome the humanitarian ship Aquarius. Spain then allowed more than 600 migrants to land.

Aware of clashing with the right, with which Emmanuel Macron hopes to forge an alliance, and fearing to feed the lawsuits into angelism on the subject of immigration, the Minister of the Interior took care to recall some data: among the 234 passengers of I’ocean vikingthere were twenty sick people and 57 children, including babies”, he mentioned, referring to a decision taken ” exceptionally “, under a “duty of humanity”. Gérald Darmanin assured that people on board who are not asylum seekers would be subject to “removal procedures”.

“An exceptional level of tension”

“We are very relieved by the outcome, confided Sophie Beau, the co-founder of SOS Méditerranée. Even if this solution has a bitter taste. It’s the longest waiting period we’ve ever had. [trois semaines], in serious violation of maritime law. »

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According to international standards, people rescued at sea must be disembarked in the nearest safe port. But the calls of theocean viking in Rome have remained a dead letter. On Thursday, relations between Paris and Rome reached “an exceptional level of tension », we confided in the government. During the press briefing following the Council of Ministers, Mr. Darmanin mentioned “extremely strong consequences on the bilateral relationship”. “Italy had to welcome these people”repeated the Minister of the Interior, referring to possible “legal consequences”.

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