Ship leaves French port after migrants disembark

Ship leaves French port after migrants disembark


All migrants aboard a rescue ship rejected by Italy have disembarked in France, authorities said on Saturday while the ship was being serviced at another port.

The Ocean Viking, operated by a French NGO, will leave the other port in France in a few weeks to return to rescue more migrants in the Mediterranean.

The ship, operated by SOS Mediterranee, had intercepted more than 230 migrants at sea near the Libyan coast before spending weeks searching for a port of acceptance.

France allowed the boat to dock in the southern port of Toulon on Friday after Rome denied him access.

French authorities said the last of the 230 passengers disembarked late Friday. Four others were evacuated by helicopter earlier in the week.

Of the passengers, 189 people – including 23 women and 13 minors – are now living in a holiday camp on the Giens peninsula, about 20 kilometers from the military port of Toulon.

The area has been designated as a special “international waiting zone” which is not part of French territory and which they are not allowed to leave until their asylum application has been processed.

French authorities said all of the newcomers had expressed a desire to apply for asylum.

They must undergo security checks, including by the French secret service, before they can be questioned by the country’s refugee agency OFPRA, whose representatives are expected on Saturday.

– “Young Teens” –

Another passenger who was the first to be off the Ocean Viking on Friday is being treated at a French hospital for ill health.

Another 44 unaccompanied minors – most of them “young teenagers” – have been turned over to French social services and are not staying at the Giens shelter, local official Evence Richard said.

Of all passengers disembarked, 175 are expected to leave France and travel to 11 other countries.

Germany is to take in 80 migrants, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Portugal and Romania are also to take in a share.

The Ocean Viking first sought access to the Italian coast closest to where the migrants were picked up, saying health and hygiene conditions on board were rapidly deteriorating.

Italy declined, saying other nations would have to shoulder more of the burden to accommodate the thousands of migrants who try to get to Europe from North Africa each year.

SOS Mediteranee Operations Manager Xavier Lauth said Friday the Ocean Viking would resume rescue missions after leaving Toulon.

So far this year, 1,891 migrants have died or disappeared trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in hopes of a better life in Europe, according to the United Nations International Organization for Migration.

Human smugglers often force migrants into unseaworthy inflatable boats.

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