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POLITICS

France to deport 44 migrants rescued by ship in Italy row

France has rejected asylum applications from 44 of the 234 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean by the Ocean Viking NGO ship, who will be returned to their country of origin, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Tuesday.

France to deport 44 migrants rescued by ship in Italy row
Migrants stand on board the Ocean Viking prior disembarking in Toulon on November 11, 2022 (Photo by Vincenzo Circosta / AFP)

The ship was allowed to disembark at the French port of Toulon last Friday after Italy refused access to its ports, sparking a diplomatic row over how to handle the thousands of migrants trying to reach Europe from North Africa each year.

Speaking in parliament, Darmanin said the 44 migrants will be deported “as soon as their health allows,” adding that others could also be sent home as more asylum claims are examined.

France had never before allowed a rescue vessel carrying migrants from the Mediterranean to land on its coast, but did so this time because Italy had refused access.

The French government said under international maritime law, the Ocean Viking with its passengers in distress should have been granted access to the nearest ports.

But Italy, under its new far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, wants other EU nations to shoulder more of the burden, and appears ready to force the issue to the top of the European agenda.

In retaliation for Italy’s stance, France suspended a plan to take 3,500 refugees currently in Italy, part of a European distribution accord, and urged Germany and other EU nations to do the same.

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POLITICS

‘I’ve lost my eyebrows – but not my political ambition’, says France’s ex PM

France's former prime minister Edouard Philippe, a leading contender to succeed President Emmanuel Macron in 2027 elections, has opened up about a hair loss condition he says will not diminish his political ambition.

'I've lost my eyebrows - but not my political ambition', says France's ex PM

The 52-year-old politician, who spearheaded the government’s fight against the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, was a familiar face on television with his trademark brown beard.

Since leaving the post in the summer of 2020 and working as mayor of the Normandy port of Le Havre, his appearance has drastically changed with his hair and beard thinning and turning white suddenly.

“This is what had happened to me: I lost my eyebrows, and I don’t think they will come back,” he told BFMTV in an interview late Thursday.

“My beard has turned white, it’s falling out a bit and the hair too.

“The moustache is gone, I don’t know if it will come back, but I would be surprised,” he said.

“I have what is called alopecia,” he added, opening up about the auto-immune condition that accelerates hair loss.

He said the condition was “not painful, dangerous, contagious or serious”.

Philippe’s wry and avuncular style proved popular with many French and some speculated that his high approval ratings had caused tensions with Macron, with replaced him as Prime Minister in the summer of 2020.

Philippe now regularly tops polls of France’s most-loved and most-trusted politicians. 

He has now founded a new centrist party called Horizons that is allied with Macron’s ruling faction but also unafraid of showing an independent streak.

Some analysts see Philippe as an obvious potential successor to Macron, who must leave office after serving the maximum two terms in 2027.

And Philippe insisted that his condition would not stand in the way of his political plans.

“That doesn’t stop me from being extremely ambitious for my city,” he said referring to Le Havre.

Tellingly, he added: “It doesn’t stop me from being extremely ambitious for my country.”

With France buffeted by strikes and protests as the government seeks to push through landmark pension reform, Philippe gave his full backing to Macron for the changes.

He said he supported the changes “without ambiguity, without any bad note or any other kind of little complication”.

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