PARIS – The French government confirmed on Tuesday its refusal to allow migrants on board the NGO rescue ship Aquarius to disembark in the port of Marseilles.
SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the NGOs that run the rescue vessel, said there were 58 migrants on board the ship and had requested French authorization for it to dock in Marseilles, a port towards which the vessel had already set its course.
“The closest safe harbor, in the case of this humanitarian emergency, is not Marseilles, as everyone knows,” said French government spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux during an interview with French radio station Europe 1.
Bruno Le Maire, French minister of economy and finance, told BFM TV: “There are European rules; a migrant boat must set course to the closest European coast. At this time, it is not the port of Marseilles.”
Le Maire said “in migration policy, one must be firm and clear” and that France had turned down the NGO’s request, adding “if we seek a coherent migration policy, we must abide by European rules.”
The Panamanian Maritime Authority said Friday it had decided to revoke Aquarius’ Panamanian registry flag as it allegedly “disregards international legal procedures on migrant and refugee matters regarding their rescue off the Mediterranean coastline.”
According to SOS Mediterranee and MSF, Marseilles is the only port offering sufficient guarantees to resolve this situation.
The Elysee Palace, the seat of the French government, underscored on Monday that France, in line with its policy in recent months “seeks a European solution under the closest safe harbor principle.”