Member states must support more frontline migration arrival countries with relocations and prioritise the safety of lives at sea, the European Commission said on Wednesday (9 November).
In the press release, the Commission requested that the 234 survivors on the Norwegian NGO boat Ocean Viking, currently heading to France, be immediately allowed to disembark.
The French government agreed to welcome the passengers, however, due the critical situation after many days of blockage, the crew is asking for immediate disembarkation in the nearest port.
At the time of writing, the Ocean Viking is located next to coast of Sardinia.
[PRESS RELEASE] Following Italy’s silence, we urge French maritime authorities to assign a port to disembark the 234 survivors on #OceanViking.
“The situation onboard reached a critical limit”, alerts Xavier Lauth, @SOSMedIntl Director of Operations 1/3👇https://t.co/7TupYOeoeI
— SOS MEDITERRANEE (@SOSMedIntl) November 8, 2022
Last week, almost 1,000 asylum-seekers arrived in Italy via four NGO boats, one of which was the Ocean Viking.
The Italian government at first tried to prevent the passengers from coming ashore completely, before allowing only those considered ‘vulnerable cases’ by Italy. On Tuesday night, however, all passengers eventually disembarked for sanitary reasons – except those on the Ocean Viking.
According to migration experts consulted by EURACTIV, Italy violated international law with the blockage and the selective disembarkation.
The Commission underlined the legal obligation to rescue lives “irrespective of the circumstances that lead people to be in a situation of distress,” to avoid a “humanitarian tragedy.”
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni countered that there was no breach of international law, describing the decision by the health authority to disembark all passengers as “bizarre.”
Meloni has made requests for solidarity from other member states in the form of relocations.
“Based on the commonly agreed solidarity mechanism, a significant number of relocation places are available to help alleviate some of the pressure through relocation to other member states,” the EU Commission said.
The EU executive calls for a “sustainable framework” to face the migration situation in the Mediterranean sea, and endorsed its new pact on migration and asylum, which according to the Commission, it contains a “strong solidarity mechanism.”
The pact is currently under negotiations and the solidarity mechanism is one of the most contested points among the different parties.
According to EU institutions, an agreement will be reached before the next EU elections in spring 2024.
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]