PARIS – Officials in southern France made impassioned pleas Tuesday to a so-far-silent French government to allow docking access to a ship carrying 141 migrants that it rescued last week in the Mediterranean Sea, stressing humanitarian concerns.
Officials in the French island of Corsica said the Aquarius should be allowed to dock there after Italy's new anti-migrant government and Malta both refused to take it.
The vessel, currently between Malta and the Italian island of Lampedusa, is operated by French aid groups who say the health of those rescued in two operations Friday is stable but that many are weak and malnourished.
"Simply, there's a necessity today to get help to this ship," Jean-Guy Talamoni, president of Corsica's local assembly, told BFM-TV.
"It's time (Europe) wakes up and that everyone takes their share of responsibility. In the meantime, there are emergency situations, and you have to deal with them," he added.
Corsica's executive council head, Gilles Simeoni increased the pressure on Tuesday with a tweet: "Corsica and its ports remain available for emergency humanitarian aid."
Simeoni added that Europe needs a real European policy on the migrant issue in the Mediterranean sea.
In the coastal town of Sete near Montpellier in southern France, the port director also said he was ready to accept the Aquarius.
"My proposition, I'm insistent on this, it has only a humanitarian dimension in respect of international maritime law. It's an obligation of help to people in danger," Jean-Claude Gayssot, a non-elected official, told Europe-1.
"There have already been 800 deaths since the beginning of the year. The Mediterranean (sea) has become a graveyard," Gayssot said.
The comments serve to raise the pressure on the French government and on President Emmanuel Macron — who ultimately decides if the vessel will be accepted by France
Macron has not yet commented.
This story has been corrected to reflect that Gayssot spoke to Europe-1 and Talamoni to BFM-TV, not the other way around.