The Ocean Viking rescue ship escorted by a military boat arrives at Toulon, southern France  | Photo: AFP, Christophe Simon
The Ocean Viking rescue ship escorted by a military boat arrives at Toulon, southern France | Photo: AFP, Christophe Simon

The humanitarian ship Ocean Viking docked in the French military port of Toulon on Friday with 230 migrants on board after three weeks at sea. France slammed Italy for its refusal to accept the vessel and suspended a migrant deal as a result.

The NGO SOS Méditerranée, which operates the ship, said it had asked Italian authorities 43 times to be allowed to disembark after having rescued the migrants at sea.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said on Thursday the ship, whose passengers include 57 children, was being granted access to the port in Toulon, southern France "on an exceptional basis".

The survivors on board would not be able to leave the administrative centre where they will be placed and will therefore "not technically be on French soil", he added.

Nine European nations have committed to host two-thirds of the migrants, Darmanin said Thursday, with the remaining third staying in France.

Germany will take "more than 80", while Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Luxembourg and Ireland will also contribute in the name of "European solidarity", he said.

'Severe consequences'

Darmanin warned of "severe consequences" for bilateral relations between Paris and Rome, describing Italy's refusal to receive the Ocean Viking as "incomprehensible" given the vessel had been "without any doubt located in Italy's search and rescue zone".

Meanwhile Minister of Economy, Bruno Le Maire, told France 2: "The European rule is that the boat must disembark in the nearest port, which is an Italian port."

As tensions escalated, France on Thursday suspended a plan to take in 3,500 refugees from Italy.

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Text initially published on: RFI

 

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