Is the dispute between France and Italy over the “Ocean Viking” a sign of the failure of European immigration policy?

Is the dispute between France and Italy over the “Ocean Viking” a sign of the failure of European immigration policy?
Is the dispute between France and Italy over the “Ocean Viking” a sign of the failure of European immigration policy?

Is the dispute between France and Italy over the “Ocean Viking” a sign of the failure of European immigration policy?

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Relations between France and Italy are marked by serious tensions due to the exchange of accusations, criticism and threats between officials from both countries over the crisis of migrants stranded aboard the rescue ship “Ocean Viking” before they were picked up on French soil . Observers saw this escalation between Paris and Rome as an indication of the failure of European immigration policy and warned of the impact on the position of the united and common bloc on important issues.

Case of migrant rescue ship ignited “Ocean Vikings” acute tension between France and Italy Against the backdrop of illegal immigration, this is not new, after officials from both countries exchanged criticisms of both sides’ policies on the stubborn issue.

Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni on Friday condemned the French reaction to her position on receiving the ship as “hostile, incomprehensible and unjustified” after Paris announced retaliatory measures against Rome for its refusal to allow the “Ocean Viking” to dock. “I was deeply moved by the hostile, incomprehensible and inexcusable response from the French government,” Meloni said.

Earlier on Thursday, Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi denounced the French decision to take retaliatory measures against Rome, saying it was “completely incomprehensible”. “France’s reaction to the request to take in 234 immigrants while Italy has taken in 90,000 this year is completely incomprehensible,” he said in a statement.

  • France: “It will be there dire consequences”

On Friday, France received an “extraordinary” 230 migrants aboard the ship in the southern port of Toulon, following a diplomatic confrontation with Italy.

French Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin condemned the “unacceptable option” and violated “international law” for Italy, which, led by a new far-right government, refused to receive the ship. Darmanan viewed the French decision as a “humanitarian duty” and expressed his country’s anger: “We must be able to organize things differently from now on, so that Italy cannot benefit from European solidarity and act selfishly when refugees , especially children, arrive”. its ports.


Faced with this crisis, France decided to “immediately” suspend the project to host 3,500 refugees in Italy. Darmanan stressed that the Italian position will have “serious consequences” for “our bilateral relations”.

The European Commission on Wednesday called for “immediate disembarkation in the safe haven” closest to the migrants aboard the Ocean Viking, the last of the four humanitarian ships stranded in the Mediterranean.

  • Brussels called for “common response”

“The legal obligation to save lives at sea is clear and unambiguous, regardless of the circumstances that put people in distress at sea,” the commission said in a statement, calling on “Member States” to work together to find a “joint response.” ” to find.

But the tensions between France and Italy over illegal immigration are not the result of the moment, they ignited these acts Securing the crisis between them more than once. For example, on January 21, 2019, the French Foreign Ministry summoned Italian Ambassador Teresa Castaldo to protest statements by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio accusing France of “impoverishing Africa” and escalating the refugee crisis.

Di Maio expressed hope at the time that the European Union would impose “sanctions” on countries, starting with France, which he says is behind the tragedy of migrants in the Mediterranean by “expelling” them from Africa.

However, it is noted that relations between Rome and Paris are very tense, especially after the extreme right came to power in Italy in June 2018. Still, the two countries have formed a mixed force at their borders to fight migrant smugglers, notably in Italy’s shared border crossing in the Ventimiglia region on the Italian side to the Monton region on the French side. There are also joint patrols Between the border police on both sides.

Why is the crisis between France and Italy repeated again and again against the background of immigration? What are the consequences of the current tensions between the two countries? Has European immigration policy failed to tackle illegal immigration in a coherent manner? Samir El-Qaryouti, France 24 correspondent in Italy, and Nasira Ben Ali, journalist specializing in Italian affairs, answer these questions.

  • Why is the crisis between France and Italy repeated again and again against the background of immigration?

Samir Al-Qaryouti believes that “the crisis between France and Italy is renewed because the current Italian government has included in its framework former ministers known for this anti-French attitude, and in particular President Macron”. He added: “By that I mean the Northern League ministers represented by Matteo Salvini, because the current Italian interior minister was director of Salvini’s office in the prime minister’s office when he was allied with the Five Star Movement in 2019. The second reason is that the right on immigration and immigrants was able to win many votes in the elections, as did Ms. Georgia Millioni, who did not speak much on the immigration issue but clung to national identity and Italian interests defended.

For her part, Nassira Ben Ali said: “It is not the first time that relations between the two neighbors have been strained due to immigration and other issues. In terms of immigration, the two countries have widened their borders (515 km long). and France believes that Italy is using the ruse as it receives large sums of money from the European Union to fight illegal immigration and then finds excuses to evade the official mission assigned to it. On the other hand, the Italian government considers that France is not fulfilling its full role because it does not participate in the delegations of immigrants coming to Italy, leaving the entire problem on the shoulders of the Italian authorities.

  • What are the consequences of the current tensions between the two countries?

Samir Al-Qaryouti said that “France-Italy relations will experience some escalation, but will then return to their normal state, especially after the next summit planned and the special meeting aimed at reconciliation convened by the European Union on Friday between the two parties and finding a common solution, although this solution is difficult now, but there will be a decision to reduce the escalation and withdraw from some tough positions, including the interests of the two-country relations and inter-union relations , because they are unable to face a protracted economic crisis in the face of immigration disagreements, which all use as a domestic political tool to persuade public opinion.

For her part, Nassira Ben Ali stated: “I do not believe that these tensions will have serious or bad consequences for the relations between the two countries, which are sometimes marred by some crises avoided and circumvented by the partnership and close ties that both Sides that are actually bypassing the crisis cannot do without, and as for the statements exchanged, they are just political rhetoric to those who voted for it and that they promised to stop illegal immigration every time migrants from its territory according to send to France.”

  • Has European immigration policy failed to tackle illegal immigration in a coherent manner?

For Samir El-Qaryouti, France 24 Rome correspondent, “European immigration policy has failed because it is still about security and not about politics.” He continued: “Clear policies are needed to solve this problem , but with the commitment of all parties and all parties concerned with the files of migrants, economic migration issues, asylum applications and other complex issues such as economics, to face them in a political framework and not in frameworks, analyzes or security approaches. “.

Nassira Ben Ali, a journalist specializing in Italian affairs, said: “Certainly, European policy to combat and combat illegal immigration has largely failed, and for several reasons. First, it has not been able to ascertain the number of arrivals, whether or not they are on Spanish or Italian coasts, or on French, German and other lands. Second, these countries have failed to establish a clear and sustained policy with a view to solving this problem as each country is unilateral on this file and there does not seem to be a unified position on it and Italy is changing its position and policy by changing each government, like the current far-right government that started to tackle this problem in a partisan and rhetorical manner aimed at the elected officials of Georgia Meloni and Matteo Salvini. This solution is unrealistic and unsustainable because the problem will recur in the future and the Italian government needs to address it more seriously and convincingly, firstly towards its European partners and secondly towards the Italian community, which is disgusted at the position of Georgia Meloni, which she blames for the deaths of at least two migrants because she disrupted their arrival on Italian territory and prevented them from boarding when a woman on board the ship and an infant died due to the delay extend a helping hand or to help them. Moreover, Italian society is not entirely behind Meloni, and the opposition accuses her of finding purely demagogic political solutions to serious problems such as illegal immigration.

Amin Zerwati


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