Forty-four of the asylum seekers on board the Ocean Viking rescue vessel that docked in the French port of Toulon on Friday will soon be expelled from the country, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told French lawmakers on Tuesday.
Speaking to France’s National Assembly, Darmanin revealed that of the 234 passengers rescued in the Mediterranean by the humanitarian ship, 44 had their asylum request refused and would be returned to their country of origin “as soon as their condition of health allows it.”
Victor Boiteau, a journalist at the Libération newspaper tweeted: “At the Assembly, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced that among the 234 migrants received in Toulon, 44 were recognized as minors. 60 can apply for asylum, 44 cannot. Those who can will be relocated to 11 European countries.”
Remix News previously reported that of the 234 people on board the ship, just 21 were women. It was also initially reported that 81 minors were on the boat, with the revision suggesting that a number of those claiming to be minors were in fact over the age of 18.
The passengers disembarked in Toulon and were taken by coach to a holiday camping center in Hyères on Friday.
Just 60 of those who arrived will be allowed to claim asylum in France, “including Syrians, Sudanese, Eritreans,” with the remainder being distributed across Europe, Darmanin explained.
The French government minister engaged in a lively debate with National Rally deputy Laure Lavalette, who opposed the government’s decision to grant the boat permission to dock, asking her whether she would have preferred the minors on the ship to have died at sea.
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The Ocean Viking vessel was the subject of a diplomatic showdown between Paris and Rome last week, after the new right-wing Italian administration refused the boat permission to dock in the Italian port of Catania, insisting it must go to the boat’s nation of registration.
Despite accepting the boat, which is financed by the French NGO SOS Méditerranée, the French government announced retaliatory measures against Italy by canceling the relocation agreement under which it was to take charge of some 3,000 asylum seekers from Italy by the summer of 2023; it will also now strengthen controls at the Italian border.