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France: Italy’s rejection of migrant ship ‘unacceptable’

Migrants receive 24-hours survival kits on the deck of the Ocean Viking rescue ship, in the Mediterranean Sea, near the coast of Sicily, southern Italy, Nov 6, 2022. (VINCENZO CIRCOSTA / AP)

PARIS – The Ocean Viking migrant rescue ship should dock in Italian waters as per international maritime laws and Rome's refusal to let it do so – which has caused the ship to head to France – is "unacceptable", the French government said on Wednesday.

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"Italy has a responsibility to welcome these people," government spokesperson Olivier Veran told France Info radio.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's two-week-old administration is cracking down on charity vessels, urging them to take rescued people to other countries. The government says Italy cannot alone receive arrivals from North Africa

"The Italian attitude is … unacceptable. Italy must play its role," he added.

Veran said diplomatic talks were underway between France and Italy to try to resolve the fate of the ship, which is carrying more than 200 people.

READ MORE: At least 16 migrants dead in shipwreck off Greece's Lesbos

"No one will let this boat face the slightest risk," said Veran.

The Ocean Viking, used by France's SOS Mediterranee non-governmental organization, has been sailing towards France after Italy refused to give it a safe port for more than two weeks.

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Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's two-week-old administration is cracking down on charity vessels, urging them to take rescued people to other countries. The government says Italy cannot alone receive arrivals from North Africa.