On Tuesday, in a staggering display of hypocrisy, French President Emmanuel Macron condemned Italy for refusing to accept 600 refugees from the rescue ship Aquarius. Macron stated that Italy was acting “irresponsibly” and rejecting its obligations under international maritime law, while the spokesman for his party, Gabriel Attal, told Public Senat TV: “The Italian position makes me vomit.”
Yet earlier on Tuesday, the French government rejected the offer from Corsican leaders Gilles Simeoni and Jean-Guy Talamoni, the top politicians on the French Mediterranean island, to accept the refugees. Junior Europe and foreign affairs minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne told Sud Radio, "[Simeoni] is taking a position without having any responsibility which is easy. What does international law say? They need to go to the port that is safest and closest. And we can see that Corsica is not the closest or the safest. Given the boat's location, it is between Italy and Malta.”
The refugees will be taken by two Italian navy ships to Spain; Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez agreed to take them in.
Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini wrote on Facebook, “Malta takes in nobody. France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons. From today, Italy will also start to say no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration.”
As The Independent notes, “Over 35,000 refugees have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year, and almost 800 are estimated dead and missing. On average around 220 people a day are thought to leave North Africa on boats bound for European countries including Spain, Italy and Greece.”
Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban agrees with the Italian stance, saying, “It was so depressing to hear for years that it is impossible to protect maritime borders. Willpower has returned to Italy.”