Elisabeth Bourne on Wednesday demanded more “cooperation” with non-governmental organizations that rescue migrants at sea, after receiving in Toulon the humanitarian ship Ocean Viking, chartered by the association SOS Méditerranée, and its 234 migrants on board.
The prime minister said she wants “resumption of liaison with non-governmental maritime rescue organizations in the Mediterranean,” which the right and the far right see as “accomplices” of smugglers.
“These NGOs save lives, do important work, but more flexible and transparent cooperation with state authorities is needed,” Ms. Born stressed without details at a Senate meeting on questions to the government.
“Humanity and hardness” defends Bourne
She also wanted to act to “prevent illegal departures from North Africa”, which “goes through strengthening the maritime capabilities of countries of origin and increasing collective efficiency in terms of the readmission of illegal migrants.”
The prime minister, interrogated by Union centrist group president Herve Marcel, also stressed “the need to move forward as quickly as possible on the completion of the European pact on asylum and immigration” and asked for a European-level meeting of “an emergency council of interior ministers.”
“We have fully assumed our humanitarian duty, but (…) France does not deviate from an approach based on two main principles: humanity and firmness,” Ms Born said.
France has accused Italy of failing to meet its legal obligations and its European obligations by refusing to welcome Ocean Viking into its ports last week.
On Friday, Paris allowed a ship to dock in the military port of Toulon carrying 234 migrants, including 57 children rescued off the coast of Libya, on the world’s most dangerous migration route. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced that at least 44 of them would be deported to their countries of origin.
After disembarkation, the survivors were transferred to a recreation center on the peninsula of Gjens (Var), turned into an international “holding area” from which they are not allowed to leave, except for unaccompanied minors supported by the child protection service.