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France-Italy migrant row: Ocean Viking arrivals assisted at new centre

Unaccompanied minors are being cared for at a hotel while other arrivals are being helped by the Croix Rouge, with security checks and asylum requests now underway

The Ocean Viking ship off the coast of Italy

The migrant ship Ocean Viking has now left the port of Toulon and is in Marseille Pic: Alessio Tricani / Shutterstock

The 234 migrants from the Ocean Viking SOS Méditerranée ship that docked in France two days ago, stoking a Paris-Rome row, have begun to be processed through the new arrival centre in Toulon.

The migrants, many of whom were ill, had spent around 20 days at sea. Italy had repeatedly refused the ship access to its shores, prompting the vessel to turn towards France.

Upon arrival, the migrants were split into two groups. 

Unaccompanied minors

The 44 unaccompanied minors from ages 12 to 16 were taken to a hotel and are being cared for there. Social and psychological care workers are with them. Interviews to determine their personal situations are set to begin from tomorrow (November 14).

International waiting zone

Adults and minors travelling with their families were evacuated and are being held at an accommodation centre in Giens. The site, which is usually a holiday village for EDF workers, has been transformed into an international waiting zone.

The migrants in the centre are not officially considered to be ‘in France’. They do not have permission to leave the centre or enter France.

Within the centre, the migrants are being cared for and receiving assistance from the Protection Civile and the Croix Rouge.

Richard Fradin, member of the Croix Rouge, said: “We will provide them with telephones and WiFi connections so that they can contact their loved ones and reassure them, given that they have just made a pretty dangerous journey.”

Security and asylum demands

Security checks are being carried out at the centre by law enforcement services to check the safety and background of the migrants. 

French refugee office l’Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides (OFPRA) has started consultations to gather asylum seeker requests from the migrants. These requests will be expedited.

Ocean Viking leaves Toulon

Meanwhile, the migrant ship itself has now left Toulon port. It departed on Friday (November 11) night. The vessel is now in Marseille and is set to remain in France for a technical evaluation, before departing again.

Representative Sophie Beau tweeted: “We are planning to go back into the Mediterranean once again, in a few weeks. Nothing will stop us from saving at sea.

“It is criminal to leave this space without the maritime resources needed for saving lives.”

Italy-France row

The situation sparked a diplomatic row between Rome and Paris. 

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that Italy’s attitude was “unacceptable”, but Italy responded by calling France’s response “incomprehensible”.

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