After 20 days at sea in search of a safe port, the 234 migrants rescued between the Libyan and Italian coasts by the NGO SOS Méditerranée were all able to be disembarked, 230 at the military port of Toulon on Friday and four in Corsica in a first time, before being transferred to the mainland.
The Ocean Viking left Toulon on Friday evening and is temporarily in the port of La Seyne-sur-Mer (Var), the prefecture of the department and the NGO told AFP.
She will stay a few weeks in France for a technical stopover before setting off again off Libya to resume her rescues in the central Mediterranean.
Among the 234 survivors, 189, including 24 women and 13 minors, are now in a vacation center on the Giens peninsula, about twenty kilometers from Toulon, transformed into an “international waiting area”.
The latter was created especially so that they are not considered to be in France and they are prohibited from leaving it before an initial assessment of their asylum application.
For the moment, everyone has indicated their wish to make this request, according to the prefecture. They will have to go through security checks before interviews with the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Ofpra) whose agents are expected on Saturday.
In a joint declaration “for the full respect of the rights” of these people, several organizations including the National Association for Border Assistance for Foreigners (Anafé), the League of Human Rights or the Syndicate of Lawyers of France , on Friday condemned the creation of this “waiting area” and the “deprivation of liberty” it engenders.
– “Rights” and “political choice” –
“There are not the same rights guarantees” for migrants as if they were on national soil, Anafé director Laure Palun told AFP on Saturday, denouncing a “political choice” from France.
“Welcoming is not confinement,” she said.
The 44 unaccompanied minors who were on board the Ocean Viking were taken care of by social services and relocated outside the center of Giens.
First of the 230 migrants landed in Toulon on Friday to have been evacuated from the military port, a survivor is still hospitalized.
In total, more than two-thirds of the 234 people, or 175, will leave France to be relocated to eleven countries, including Germany, which is to take in around 80, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Ireland, Finland and Norway.
This is the first time that an ambulance boat operating off Libya has landed survivors in France, which has generated a diplomatic crisis with Italy, which has refused to welcome it.
The ire of the French far right did not subside on Saturday. The figure of the National Rally and deputy Marine Le Pen denounced an “act of incitement” on the part of the government which could attract more migrants.
“We must attack the roots, (…) the smugglers”, she advocated on the sidelines of a visit to the Made in France Salon in Paris.
On the other hand, the left, like Jean-Luc Mélenchon, praised an “act of humanity”.
SOS Méditerranée will leave for its part at sea “because there have been more than 20,000 deaths since 2014” in the Mediterranean and “we do not accept that this sea becomes a cemetery”.
Rome, rejecting criticism from Paris, pleaded on Friday for a “European solution”. But “in fact, it is more a question of implementing a European decision already taken”, underlined to AFP Virginie Guiraudon, specialist in migration issues at the CNRS, recalling that a European “solidarity” mechanism has was adopted in June.
It provides for a dozen states, including France, to voluntarily welcome 8,000 migrants who have arrived in so-called “front line” countries such as Italy, but to date only 117 have been relocated, angering Rome. .
Since the beginning of the year, 1,891 migrants have disappeared in the Mediterranean, trying to reach Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).