Diplomatic crisis with Italy: Paris deports 44 “Ocean Viking” refugees

Diplomatic crisis with Italy
Paris deports 44 “Ocean Viking” refugees

The migrants on board the “Ocean Viking” rescue service lead to a diplomatic crisis between Paris and Rome. The French interior minister has now announced that some of the refugees will immediately be returned to their home countries.

After the tug-of-war over the “Ocean Viking” rescue ship, which was finally accepted by France, with 234 refugees on board, Paris wants to send 44 of them back to their country of origin. After an examination of the refugees who arrived at the military port of Toulon on Friday, it turned out that the 44 were not entitled to an asylum procedure, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said this afternoon at the National Assembly in Paris. He gave no reasons for this.

He has already contacted the countries of origin to organize the repatriation as soon as possible, as soon as the health status of the refugees allows, Darmanin said. France, Germany and nine other European countries have agreed to take in the remaining refugees. The interior minister defended the decision to dock the “Ocean Viking” in France after an Italian refusal, against criticism from a right-wing MP. “You would have let these 44 children die if you had been responsible,” the minister replied, referring to the refugee minors on board.

The refusal by the government of Italy’s new far-right prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, to allow the “Ocean Viking” to enter an Italian port sparked a dispute with France. The neighboring country accused Italy of violating international law. In addition, France suspended a solidarity agreement reached in June under which Mediterranean migrants would be readmitted to Italy and tightened its controls at the Italo-French border.

Macron calls Matarella

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Italian President Sergio Mattarella about the diplomatic crisis on Monday. The two presidents stressed “the great importance of relations” between the two countries. This applies to bilateral relations as well as at European level, it said afterwards.

French government spokesman Olivier Véran had previously called on European authorities to decide on the consequences of Italy’s “unacceptable behaviour”. Italy, for its part, stressed that it had already taken in 90,000 migrants since the beginning of the year. Of the 8,000 that were to be distributed to other European countries, only 117 were actually redistributed.

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