With more than 230 rescued migrants on board, the humanitarian ship oceanic viking, flying the Norwegian flag, suffered a refusal of assistance from the Italian authorities on Tuesday. Without solution, the NGO Méditerranée asked France for assistance, while Paris simultaneously denounced the politics of Giorgia Meloni’s Italy. 20 minutes takes stock of this showdown between Paris and Rome.
What happened on Tuesday with the “Ocean Viking”?
L’oceanic viking, a humanitarian ship owned by the NGO SOS Méditerranée, cannot find a home. She is sailing in the central Mediterranean with 234 surviving migrants on board, recovered eighteen days ago on “unusable and overloaded boats,” the NGO said in a press release published on Tuesday.
On the same day, after contacting Libya and Malta several times, oceanic viking, who was sailing from the Sicilian port of Syracuse on Tuesday, asked Italy to assign him a safe place, “according to maritime law”. “But the newly elected government has imposed an implicit and discriminatory ban on all search and rescue vessels operated by NGOs from entering territorial waters”, regretted SOS Méditerranée.
On Tuesday, Italy finally allowed the landing of the Rise above, another humanitarian boat containing 89 migrants. For two other boats, the transalpine authorities made a selection, in particular refusing adult men.
Thus, of the more than 1,000 migrants taken at sea by four ambulances, after fleeing Libya on improvised boats, only those rescued by the Ocean Viking of the NGO SOS Méditerranée were stranded on Wednesday off the Italian coast.
Why is the cold wave between France and Italy?
Paris has had little taste of the Italian bluff. On Tuesday evening, the services of the new far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni greeted France for agreeing to host theoceanic viking in one of its ports. Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said Wednesday in an interview that President Emmanuel Macron himself had decided “to open the port of Marseille”.
Immediate denial of the French executive, which punishes the “unacceptable behavior” of the neighbor “contrary to the law of the sea and the spirit of European solidarity”. Rome must “play its role” and “respect its European commitments”, French government spokesman Olivier Véran insisted on Wednesday on Radio France Info.
Something to cool relations between the far-right politician and Emmanuel Macron, who was still the first foreign leader to meet her after her election in late October. A transfer of arms between Rome and Paris that recalls the stalemate that had already opposed the Europeans to Italy four years ago, under the government of Matteo Salvini. Paris and Rome in particular were hanging on to the fate ofAcquariumthe former ship of the NGO SOS Méditerranée, which eventually had to land in Valencia in Spain.
Why this renewed tension between Paris and Meloni’s Italy?
Italy has seen a sharp increase in sea entry into its territory this year, according to data from the Interior Ministry, with 88,100 people arriving on its shores since January 1. Unsurprisingly, the Italian Prime Minister has strengthened his country’s immigration policy since she took office, accepting only minors or sick people. Indignant, her opposition denounces a “selection” of migrants.
And with the arrival of the more right-wing government in Rome since the Second World War, tensions with Paris resumed. “We are witnessing a diplomatic stalemate between France and Italy, which opens a breach towards other situations of this kind, because Italy is clearly questioning the European agreement (of solidarity) that was in its favor”, observed with AFP the specialist researcher at the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri) Matthieu Tardis.
Since June, a relocation system, which had already gone through a first phase in 2019, provides for a dozen Member States, including France and Germany, to voluntarily welcome migrants who have arrived in countries such as Italy, close to the Libyan coast. So far, 164 migrants have been relocated from Italy to other Member States in 2022, of which 117 under the mechanism adopted in June. But Italy is asking for more support from other European countries.
So where is the “Ocean Viking” sailing?
SOS Méditerranée, noting “the total impasse on the side of Italy”, which has not accepted any of its 43 requests for a safe harbor, finally asked France for assistance on Tuesday. But the ship “has not yet received an official response” on Wednesday morning, NGO director Sophie Beau told AFP. The Ocean Viking, which has always remained in international waters, “is currently rising along the Sicilian coasts, towards the North and Sardinia”, she added.
oceanic viking he chose to head to France when the situation on board “reached a critical level”. “We are now facing very serious consequences, including the risk of death,” the NGO immediately warned. It is true that Gilles Simeoni, president of the Corsican executive, has offered to temporarily host the humanitarian ship in one of its ports “according to his tradition of hospitality and to avoid any loss of life”.
For his part, Benoît Payan, mayor of Marseille, challenged the government, indicating that it was “an honor of France to welcome them”. “The Ocean Viking is expected to arrive in international waters near Corsica on November 10,” the NGO said in a statement, recalling that “all survivors rescued from a dangerous situation at sea are vulnerable.”