Rome has shown a “lack of humanity” by rejecting a ship containing migrants, the French foreign minister says
There will be consequences for Italy if it continues to turn away migrants rescued from the Mediterranean Sea, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna has said.
The new government in Rome banned the Ocean Viking, a vessel containing 234 migrants who had been rescued at sea, from entering Italian ports last month. Colonna described this behavior as a “strong disappointment” in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper on Saturday. “The decision is shocking,” she added.
“Italy respects neither international nor maritime law,” she said, insisting that the ship transporting distressed people from the Middle East and North Africa had to be accepted by the nearest port, which had been an Italian one.
“Because of Italy’s stubborn refusal and lack of humanity,” France had to allow the ship to dock, the foreign minister noted. The Ocean Viking, operated by French group SOS Mediterranee, entered the port of Toulon in southeastern France on Friday.
A statement by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who claimed it had been the duty of Paris from the outset to accept the ship, was “in total contradiction with our exchanges,” Colonna insisted.
“There will be consequences if Italy persists with this attitude,” she warned.
Colonna also noted that France had already frozen its previous plan to take in 3,500 asylum seekers, who are currently in Italy, and tightened controls at the Franco-Italian border in response to the actions by Rome.
Meloni, who came to power on the promise of cracking down on illegal immigration, had earlier decried the move by Paris as “aggressive” and betraying the “European dynamic… of solidarity and sharing.”
The standoff is causing major concerns in Brussels, with European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas saying on Saturday that the EU “cannot allow two member states [to be] fighting each other in public and creating yet another mega political crisis over migration.”