Ship leaves French port after disembarking migrants

All migrants on a rescue vessel that was turned back by Italy disembarked in France, officials said on Saturday as the vessel left for maintenance at another port.

The Ocean Viking, run by a French NGO, will leave other French ports in a few weeks and return to help more migrants in the Mediterranean.

A ship operated by SOS Mediterranee had been searching for a port for weeks to pick up more than 230 migrants at sea near the Libyan coast.

France allowed boats to dock in Toulon’s southern port on Friday after Rome denied access.

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

189 of the passengers, including 23 women and 13 minors, are now living in a converted holiday camp on the Gien peninsula, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Toulon’s military port. increase.

This area has been designated as a special “international waiting area” which is not part of French territory and you cannot leave until your asylum application has been processed.

French officials said all the new arrivals wanted asylum.

They will have to undergo security checks, including by intelligence services within France, before being interviewed by OFPRA, the country’s refugee agency, whose representatives are expected to arrive on Saturday.

– “teenagers” –

An additional passenger, who was first offloaded from Ocean Viking on Friday, is being treated in a French hospital for poor health.

Another 44 unaccompanied minors – mostly “teens” – have been handed over to French social services and are not staying in a shelter in Gien, local official Evence said. Richard said.

Of all disembarked passengers, 175 leave France for 11 other countries.

Germany will host 80 migrants, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Portugal and Romania will also participate.

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

Italy rejected this, saying other countries would have to shoulder more of the burden to accommodate the thousands of migrants who try to cross to Europe from North Africa each year.

SOS Mediteranee operations director Xavier Lauth said Friday that Ocean Viking will resume its rescue mission after leaving Toulon.

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

Smugglers often force immigrants into dinghys that are difficult to navigate.

sha-jnb/iw/ah/jm Ship leaves French port after disembarking migrants

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