The red ship chartered by the NGO SOS Méditerranée and operated in partnership with the International Federation of the Red Cross approached the port of Toulon on Friday around 8:15 a.m., AFP journalists noted.

After three weeks of wandering in vain in search of a safe port in Italy, the Ocean Viking, an ambulance boat chartered by the French NGO SOS Méditerranée, will dock in Toulon, “exceptionally” and under “an a duty of humanity,” French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced on Thursday.

Once in port, he will disembark the men, women and children he rescued off the coast of Libya and they will be immediately placed in a “waiting area”, the Interior Ministry said.

The survivors aboard the Ocean Viking, including 57 children, “will not be able to leave the administrative center where we are going to put them and will therefore not technically be on French soil,” said Mr. Darmanin.

Their arrival in France is particularly tense on the far right, which cried out for “laxity” through the voice of Marine Le Pen, while the left and environmentalists welcomed a “decision worthy of the values” of France.

– Direct evictions? –

From Friday, all these people, who come from different countries, some of which are at war such as Syria, will be subject to health monitoring, then security checks by the intelligence services, before being heard by the French Office for the Protection of Refugees (Ofpra), which grants refugee status, the Interior Ministry said.

In the midst of the presentation of a bill on immigration which plans to reform asylum procedures in order to achieve more deportations, Gérald Darmanin’s entourage specified that “those who do not receive asylum will be removed directly from the waiting area to their country of origin”.

Two-thirds of the people will not stay in France anyway, since they will be relocated to nine countries, said the ministry, citing Germany which is to welcome around 80, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia , Lithuania, Malta, Portugal and Ireland.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin harshly criticized the new far-right Italian government which refused to open its ports to the Ocean Viking, despite the maritime law obliging it to do so: “Italy has been very inhuman”.

He announced the suspension “with immediate effect” of the planned reception of 3,500 migrants currently in Italy and promised to draw “the consequences” on the other aspects of his “bilateral relationship”.

For its part, SOS Méditerranée said it felt “a relief tinged with bitterness”. “The survivors went through a real ordeal,” the director of the NGO, Sophie Beau, told AFP. Four of the 234 migrants on the ship had to be evacuated to Corsica on Thursday, three of them for medical reasons.

– Pressure on Italy –

On board, the news of the landing had aroused scenes of jubilation, confided a photographer on board with SOS Méditerranée, evoking hugs, songs and tears of joy among these people, some of whom come from Eritrea, Syria or Sudan. South.

It is “urgent that European states put in place a permanent distribution mechanism”, pleaded once again Sophie Beau, while Italy multiplies anti-migrant declarations.

“Europe must further increase the pressure on the Italian government to compel it to respect its commitments,” said Delphine Rouilleault, who heads the France Terre d’Asile association.

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 so-called “first line” like Italy.

However, only 117 have been relocated under the mechanism adopted in June. An insufficient number, judges Italy.

Since the beginning of the year, 1,891 migrants have disappeared in the Mediterranean, trying to reach Europe, including 1,337 in the central Mediterranean, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).