Premier Giorgia Meloni blasted France’s “aggressive” response in a diplomatic row over the migrant situation; in particular the NGO-run search-and-rescue ship the Ocean Viking.
There has been a queue of NGO ships waiting in waters off Italy to disembark rescued migrants. Italy has declined to let all of them to dock.
On Friday, France allowed the Ocean Viking, run by French NGO SOS Méditerranée, to dock in Toulon. There were 230 asylum seekers on board. Italy had ignored the ship’s appeals to be assigned a port of safety for weeks.
“When there is talk of retaliation in EU dynamics, something is not working,” Meloni told a press conference. “I was struck by the aggressive, incomprehensible, unjustifiable reaction of the French government”.
Call for EU to isolate Italy
However, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced France has suspended plans to take in 3,500 refugees currently in Italy. It also called on “all the participants” in the EU’s migrant-relocation mechanism to adopt similar measures.
Darmanin called on “Germany in particular” to suspend the relocation of asylum seekers from Italy.
“The request to isolate Italy betrays a curious EU dynamic,” Meloni said. “I hope this does not happen. it would not be smart.
“The issue today is how the EU should deal with this matter. It could choose to isolate Italy. I think it would be better to isolate the traffiickers. You can decide to isolate Italy but it is not the solution.
“I think it’s worth putting two numbers together,” Meloni added. “The Ocean Viking NGO ship that docks in France today is the first NGO ship to have ever docked in France and it has 230 migrants.
“This generated a very tough reaction with respect to Italy, which has allowed almost 90,000 emigrants to enter.
“What makes me angry? That Italy has to be the only (country to provide a) disembarkation port. This is not written in any agreement”.
The French Secretary of State for EU Affairs Laurence Bonne told France Info that trust with Rome had broken down following the row. “The current Italian government has not respected the mechanism which it had committed to,” Bonne said “There was a unilateral decision that put lives in danger and that, moreover, does not comply with international law”.
Italian President says shared migrant choices needed
President Sergio Mattarella called for shared migrant choices with the EU, following the Italy-France row over the migrant situation.
On the issue of migrants, “shared choices by the European Union are needed”, said Mattarella. The Italian president was speaking in Maastricht marking the 30th anniversary of the signing of the treaty that set up the Union.