France announced on Thursday that it would let a rescue ship carrying more than 200 migrants dock and evacuate its passengers, harshly criticizing Italy for failing to accept them.
After a mounting dispute with Italy about whose obligation it was to take them in, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin stated the Ocean Viking, whose passengers included 57 minors, would be permitted entrance to the military port of Toulon.
The minister who was enraged by Rome’s rejection to accept the ship described its stance as “incomprehensible.”
The ship “is located without any doubt in Italy’s search and rescue zone. it was Italy’s job to immediately designate a port to welcome this ship,” he said.
The French-Italian spat is the latest in a European stalemate over the location to disembark migrants rescued while trying to reach Europe from North Africa, with Rome growing increasingly upset at taking in the vast majority of those rescued.
During a speech after a cabinet meeting, Darmanin warned that “it is obvious that there will be extremely severe consequences for bilateral relations” (with Italy).
He said France had already chosen to halt a proposal to take 3,500 migrants now in Italy as part of a European burden-sharing agreement, and he asked Germany and the rest of the EU to follow suit.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi called France’s approach to the stalemate “completely inexplicable” on Thursday.
“The reaction France is having to the request to take in 234 migrants when Italy has taken in 90,000 just this year, is totally incomprehensible in the face of continued requests for solidarity,” he said in a statement.