The Ocean Viking carrying 230 migrants docks at Toulon amid French-Italian row

AFP , Friday 11 Nov 2022

A rescue ship carrying 230 migrants docked at the French southern military port of Toulon on Friday, maritime authorities said, amid a French-Italian row over which country is responsible for them.

Ocean Viking ship
The humanitarian ship the Ocean Viking makes its way into the military base in Toulon, France, Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. AP


The Ocean Viking, operated by a French NGO, had picked up the migrants at sea before spending weeks seeking a port to accept them.

Tensions mounted between France and Italy on Wednesday over the fate of an NGO ship carrying 234 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, with Paris calling the refusal by Italian authorities to let the vessel dock "unacceptable."

It was the latest European standoff over where to disembark migrants picked up after trying to reach Europe from North Africa, with Italy increasingly frustrated at taking in the bulk of those rescued.

The row centres on the Ocean Viking, a charity ship that has sailed away from Sicilian waters toward France after unsuccessfully waiting for permission to dock in Italy since late October.

Run by the European charity SOS Mediterranee under a Norwegian flag, the ship has appealed to France to accept it as it headed toward Corsica and potentially the French mainland, where it has also asked for access.

"It's a total blockage on the part of the Italians," SOS Med director Sophie Beau told AFP, saying it had lodged 43 official requests with no response.

As of Wednesday morning it "still had no official response" from French authorities, Beau said.

Italian leaders have claimed that France is ready to accept the migrants. Still, Paris has warned that the ship was in Italian waters and branded the refusal to let her dock "unacceptable".

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