“International law is very clear: when a boat asks to dock with shipwrecked people on board, it is the nearest safest port that must accommodate it, in this case Italy,” said Friday the French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on the RMC / BFMTV channels, stating that he “had an exchange” with his Italian counterpart.

“We have told our Italian friends, together with our German friends, that we are obviously ready to take some of the women and children, as we have done previously”, so that Italy does not bear “the burden of this arrival,” he added.

More than 1,000 migrants trying to reach Europe are currently on rescue ships at sea, including 234 on the Ocean Viking of the NGO SOS Méditerranée, which operates in partnership with the International Federation of the Red Cross, and 572 on the Géo Barents of Médecins sans frontières (MSF). There are also those on board the “Humanity1” of the German NGO SOS Humanity and the “Rise Above” of the Lifeline organization.

All of them are close to Italy.

As of Thursday, Germany had sent a diplomatic note to Italy, asking “the Italian government to provide rapid assistance” in view of the humanitarian emergency. Faced with the deteriorating weather at sea, the NGO SOS Méditerranée, headquartered in Marseille, had indeed urged France, Spain and Greece to help it find a port of disembarkation as quickly as possible. .

So far, twenty requests for safe harbors have been made by the NGO without success.

– “Avoid suffering” –

“We welcome the mobilization of France to find a solution allowing the Ocean Viking and the various search and rescue vessels stranded at sea, to disembark as soon as possible and as close as possible to Italy”, reacted SOS Méditerranée on Friday. .

“We are facing an absolute emergency and any additional day of waiting could have serious consequences”, warned the director and co-founder of the NGO Sophie Beau.

On the Ocean Viking, which is off Sicily, “rescued passengers are calm, although some are starting to show signs of seasickness. Today it’s exactly two weeks since the first rescue operation” , explained to AFP a photographer present on board.

“The sea is getting bigger. It’s raining and the rain should increase in the evening,” he testified.

“Additional suffering must be avoided for people who have already suffered ill-treatment and violence in the camps in Libya,” also asked the Italian Catholic community of Sant’Egidio, which plays the role of the Vatican’s informal diplomatic arm.

With the arrival of the extreme right to power in Rome, Italian leaders have multiplied anti-migrant declarations.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi has announced that he has issued a directive warning police forces and port authorities that his ministry is considering a ban on entry into the territorial waters of Ocean Viking and Geo Barents, both under Norwegian flag.

The Sant’Egidio community called on Friday “Europe, and in particular the countries whose NGOs are flying the flag, to find an agreement to relocate asylum seekers” who have arrived on Italian soil.

But the Norwegian government declined to AFP any “responsibility (…) towards the people on board” on board the ships.

For the director general of the association for aid to migrants France land of asylum, Delphine Rouilleault, on Twitter, an “arm wrestling (…) is undoubtedly a necessary step to not let Italy trample the international law”.

Since the beginning of the year, 1,765 migrants have disappeared in the Mediterranean, including 1,287 in the central Mediterranean, the most dangerous migratory route in the world, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

According to the Italian Interior Ministry, 85,991 people arrived by sea in Italy between January 1 and November 2, 2022, half of whom are nationals of Tunisia, Egypt and Bangladesh.