In Giens, migrants from the Ocean Viking checked and accommodated in a holiday center

The end of the ordeal for the 230 passengers of the Ocean Viking. In a holiday center in Giens near Hyères, in the south of France, transformed for the occasion into an international waiting area, the Red Cross takes care of the migrants.

After having wandered at sea for three weeks, they are forbidden to leave here, where they are interrogated by French internal intelligence.

“At the moment they have all applied for asylum so they will be having interviews with the security authorities to ensure that they do not pose a security risk.explains Eric Jalon, director general in charge of foreigners in France at the Ministry of the Interior, and then, interviews with the OFPRA (French public office for refugees) to find out if their asylum request is justified or if it is not.

Tensions with Meloni’s Italy

At the Italian border, the French police are increasing checks at the same time and sending illegal migrants back to Italy. Paris and Rome accuse each other of not keeping their commitments to migrants.

This is the first time that an ambulance boat operating off the coast of Libya has landed survivors in France. An exceptional welcome, by “duty of humanity”, underlined the French Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin criticizing “a very inhuman Italy”.

The head of the Italian government Giorgia Meloni denounced an “aggressive, incomprehensible and unjustified” French reaction, saying that her country had welcomed nearly 90,000 migrants this year while European countries, including France, which had committed to l help by taking care of 8,000 people, had finally welcomed only 117.

Like Ibrahim, they fled the Libyan hell

Young Ibrahim opens his lips and reveals his missing tooth. Stigmas of the abuse endured and left “forever” behind him in Libya, since he disembarked the humanitarian ship Ocean Viking in the south of France on Friday: “an unexpected dream”.

The 17-year-old Gambian is one of the first survivors to get off the boat of the NGO SOS Méditerranée, which docked the same morning in Toulon, after a Homeric blockage which fractured relations between France and the Italy, whose ports have remained closed to it.

Like the 229 other migrants on board, he was transferred to a holiday village on the Giens peninsula, in Hyères.

The center, located at the end of the peninsula framed by pine trees and bathed in sunshine on this Friday afternoon, belongs to a social structure. But for these survivors, it is an “international waiting zone” created especially so that they are not considered to be in France and from which they are prohibited from leaving before an initial assessment of their asylum application.

Ibrahim doesn’t care. “All I wanted was to leave Libya, hell.” A hell where he “survived” two years and eight months.

He worked there as an electrician and lived “like a black man who can be hit”, he tells AFP, sizing up a parka with a fur collar offered to him by humanitarian workers in the center, alleviating the basic needs of migrants. many of whom still walk around barefoot or in socks.

New life

Like many, Ibrahim thought he would arrive in Italy, but finds himself in France where he “would love to stay, start (s) life”.

Before that, it will be necessary to go through security checks on this improvised waiting area, in particular those of French internal intelligence, before interviews with the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Ofpra), whose agents will be responsible for verifying if his profile is compatible with the right of asylum.

In the flowery mazes and lined with shrubs in the center, padlocked by an imposing security device to prevent any exit, police officers are already questioning certain migrants on the terrace tables usually intended for aperitifs.

In these one-storey buildings with tiled roofs and rudimentary comforts, the border police have also established their headquarters, to review the profiles.

“There is no swimming pool”, remarks the prefect of Var Evence Richard, while showing people around.

“We worked urgently. We had to find a place capable of accommodating more than 230 people, available immediately and for at least 20 days, near Toulon and Hyères… The choice was quickly made” , he says.

In a dormitory room with six beds, with bunk beds and a kitchenette, a member of the civil protection summarizes: “It’s basic, but there is everything you need”.

“No choice”

Barely arrived, many migrants, bloodless, staring into space, staggering for some, had settled in an outside hall on white plastic chairs, hunched over by exile and wandering in front of a tent of the Croix- Red.

Among them, an 18-year-old Pakistani, Imran (assumed first name), is “so tired” that he does not even know what he is waiting for.

He just knows he’s in France. “But for how long?” he asks. “We weren’t told anything… In any case, Italy, France… As long as we are no longer in Libya or at sea, everything is fine with me. I needed to be on the land.”

Tells him he spent 21 days at sea, after leaving Libya where he spent only five months. “I worked as a house painter, but for five months I was never paid and the boss confiscated my passport. I had no choice,” he swears, hugging a black garbage bag tied like a bundle, from which his meager belongings escape.

For him, the urgency is to warn his family that he is “alive”.

Ibrahim has just done it and feels “liberated”, he continues as the sun sets behind the pines.

The only fly in the ointment? “The view”, slips the Gambian. From the chin, it points to the Mediterranean.

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In Giens, migrants from the Ocean Viking checked and accommodated in a holiday center

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