HomeEuropeItaly’s ban on migrant ship is ‘unacceptable,’ French minister says

Italy’s ban on migrant ship is ‘unacceptable,’ French minister says

Italy’s refusal to allow an NGO ship carrying migrants to dock on its coast is “unacceptable,” French government spokesman Olivier Véran said Wednesday.

The Ocean Viking, a ship carrying 234 migrants and operated by the NGO SOS Méditerranée, has been stranded at sea for weeks. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government has told vessels to dock in other countries.

“Following Italy’s silence, we urge French maritime authorities to assign a port to disembark the 234 survivors on #OceanViking,” SOS Méditerranée said in a statement Tuesday evening.

The Italian government seemed to confirm Tuesday evening that France had accepted the ship. It expressed its “heartfelt appreciation for France’s decision to share responsibility for the migratory emergency that has remained on the shoulders of Italy and a few other Mediterranean states to date, opening ports to the Ocean ship Viking.”

But the French government is strongly rebutting Rome’s claim, marking the first diplomatic spat between the neighbors since Meloni became prime minister two weeks ago.

“The current behavior from the Italian government … is unacceptable,” Véran said on Franceinfo. “As the ship is still in Italian territorial waters, we want Italy to play its part and honor its European commitments.”

The minister did not elaborate on how France intended to pressure Italy to change course, as Ocean Viking was leaving the coasts of Sicily and heading toward France.

“We still have a few hours to discuss … but no one is going to let this ship face any risk,” Véran said.

The vessel is expected to reach French territorial waters Thursday, after having been at sea for almost three weeks.

“After waiting so long for a positive answer to the multiple requests for a Place of Safety, survivors are losing the last bits of hope and incredible resilience they have shown so far. Serious incidents can happen at any time, jeopardizing safety of the survivors and our teams onboard,” said Xavier Lauth, SOS Méditerranée’s director of operations, in his statement.



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