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France, Pressuring Italy on NGO Ships, Has Received Just 38 of 3,500 Migrants It Promised to Take In

 Despite promising to take in 3,500 migrants from other European Union member-states under a redistribution scheme, France has received just 38 people since June — and will not take any more after Italy rejected port access to an NGO’s migrant “taxi” ship.

The agreement to redistribute migrants from countries along the European Union’s common external border, such as Greece, Italy, and Spain, was agreed upon earlier this year, with France — currently pressuring Italy’s new right-wing government to continue allowing NGOs to ferry migrants to Italian shores — promising to take 3,500 of a total 8,000 migrants to be redistributed across the EU.

However, just 38 migrants have actually been sent to France since the agreement was struck, according to Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi — and now France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has stated France will not receive any more migrants under the scheme due to Italy refusing port access to an NGO migrant transport which eventually ended up docking in the French city of Toulon instead, Il Giornale reports

The French migrant transporter operator SOS Mediterranée and its Norway-flagged ship the Ocean Viking dropped off just over 230 migrants in Toulon on Friday, with Interior Minister Darmanin stating that letting the ship dock was exceptional and slamming Italy for not allowing the ship port access, warning of “serious consequences”.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who is pushing tougher policies on illegal migration, said the French reaction was “incomprehensible and unjustified” as well as “aggressive.”

Interior Minister Piantedosi announced he would be taking on migrant transport NGOs last month, saying the vessels picking up migrants in the Mediterranean were “not in line with the spirit of European and Italian rules on security and border control and the fight against illegal immigration.”

Piantedosi also stated that he would be using security decrees passed by former interior minister Matteo Salvini, the populist leader of the League (Lega) party which is coalition with Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FdI) and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italy, who was credited with greatly reducing the number of illegal arrivals when he held the office in 2018 and 2019, along with the number of drownings.

Salvini, who now serves as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, has praised Piantedopsi, saying: “A message for human traffickers and their accomplices: as per the electoral program of the centre-right, Italy will no longer tolerate the business of illegal immigration and out-of-control landings. Foreign NGOs should act accordingly.”

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