European interior ministers welcomed Friday a European Union plan to better coordinate the handling of migrant arrivals with Libya and Tunisia, after a furious row over a refugee rescue boat erupted between Italy and France, AFP has reported.
France has accused Italy of failing to respect the law of the sea by turning away the NGO vessel (Ocean Viking), triggering crisis talks in Brussels to head off a new EU dispute over the politically fraught issue.
The meeting took place on Friday in Brussels at the request of Paris in the wake of the recent crisis with Rome over the vessel carrying 234 migrants. The vessel eventually docked in France on November 11 after the Italian government refused its entry.
The French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin reiterated that his country would not accept asylum seekers arriving in Italy as long as Rome does not respect the law of the sea. Darmanin said southern Mediterranean countries should also open their ports to migrant rescue ships sailing in their territorial waters.
The emergency action plan, which was presented by the European Commission last Monday, proposes 20 measures, aimed in particular at strengthening cooperation with countries such as Libya, Tunisia or Egypt in order to prevent departures from their territories, as well as to intensify deportations of illegal immigrants.
The plan also calls for improved coordination and information exchange among states and NGOs involved in rescues of migrants at sea, and intends to promote discussions within the International Maritime Organization on guidelines for vessels carrying out rescues at sea.