France is pushing for the Aquarius rescue ship to dock in Malta and unload the 58 migrants on board, a source in the presidential office said on Tuesday.
“We are clear on the fact that it shouldn’t spend four to five days at sea going towards France or Spain or anywhere,” the source said on condition of anonymity. “It needs to dock soon and it is close to Malta at the moment.”
France, which is reluctant to accept a request to take in the Aquarius in Marseille, wants a “solution worked out with its European partners” along the same lines as the one found in August when the boat docked in Malta.
The 141 migrants on board at the time were then distributed between France, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain.
The French presidency said it was seeking to uphold international law under which the nearest safe country should take in the boat, pointing out the ship was also close to Italy.
But Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has vowed to prevent the Aquarius ever entering his nation’s territory again and has accused it of offering a “taxi service” for migrants from Libya to Europe.
The aide to French President Emmanuel Macron lambasted the Italian government for its attitude to immigration and for blocking a new permanent solution to manage the docking and distribution of migrants rescued by charity boats in the Mediterranean.
“It’s not moving forward because those who criticise the lack of French or European solidarity, starting with Italy, don’t want a permanent, durable mechanism,” said the aide.
“Why? Because a number of politicians are living off the migrant crisis, which is a political crisis,” he added.