“I made it clear, at the request of the President of the Republic, that it is on an exceptional basis that we welcome this boat, given the fifteen days of waiting at sea that the Italian authorities made the passengers undergo”, declared the Minister at the end of the Council of Ministers.
He further tackled Italy’s “incomprehensible choice” not to host the ship.
“A third” of the migrants on board will be “relocated” to France, continued Gérald Darmanin, and those who do not meet the criteria for asylum seekers “will be returned directly”, he added, without further details. .
On Thursday, four migrants out of the 234 on the ship, including three for medical reasons and one accompanying person, were evacuated to Bastia (Corsica) from the Ocean Viking.
The rescue operations took place at the end of the morning: an air force helicopter with a medical team on board took off around 11 a.m. from the Solenzara base in Corsica to pick up the patients who were to “be evacuated to Bastia hospital”, detailed to AFP frigate captain Pierre-Louis Josselin, spokesperson for the maritime prefecture.
At 12:15 p.m., this helicopter landed at Bastia hospital, noted an AFP correspondent.
One of these patients “has been unstable and unresponsive to onboard care since October 27. The other two suffered injuries in Libya which, due to the long delay in treatment, now risk having negative consequences in the long term,” detailed a spokeswoman for SOS Méditerranée, which charters the Ocean Viking, to AFP.
The Ocean Viking rescued these migrants, some almost three weeks ago, between Libya and Italy, as they tried to reach Europe on makeshift boats.
The NGO, headquartered in Marseille, was concerned Thursday morning that it had “still not received instructions designating a port in France for the disembarkation of survivors” rescued on the most dangerous migratory route in the world.
– “Immediate disembarkation” –
The Ocean Viking was now going up off the eastern coast of Corsica.
On Wednesday, tension had risen a notch between France and Italy around the Ocean Viking, Paris denouncing Rome’s “unacceptable” refusal to let it dock, as provided for in international maritime law, and Brussels calling for immediate disembarkation of all migrants.
The European Commission had estimated on Wednesday that “the situation on board the ship has reached a critical level and must be resolved urgently to avoid a humanitarian tragedy”.
Three other NGO boats managed to disembark the rescued migrants, some 800 people. Docked in Catania since Sunday, the Geo Barents of Médecins sans frontières (MSF) and Humanity 1 of the German NGO of the same name were finally able to disembark all of their passengers on Tuesday evening, after an initial refusal by the Italian authorities to accept all of these people.
Initially the Italian authorities had only accepted women, children and sick people, a sorting described by Rome as a means of pressure on the EU to help Italy more. The Rise Above landed all of its 89 survivors in Calabria on Tuesday.
Since June, a relocation system, which had already undergone a first phase in 2019, provides for a dozen member states, including France and Germany, to voluntarily welcome 8,000 migrants who have arrived in countries such as Italy. , close to the Libyan coast.
However, only 164 migrants were relocated in 2022 from Italy to other member states, including 117 under the mechanism adopted in June. An insufficient number, judges Italy, which claims that some 88,100 migrants have arrived on its coasts since January 1, of which only 14% via humanitarian ships.