Migrant rescue NGO at centre of Italy-France spat running out of cash

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ROME (Reuters) – A migrant rescue charity caught up in a diplomatic row between Italy and France last month said on Thursday it urgently needs donations to keep its ship at sea in the Mediterranean.

“Faced with a sharp increase in its operating costs, the association is calling on the generosity of the general public, patrons and local authorities,” SOS Mediterranee said in a statement.

The charity runs the Ocean Viking ship, which in November took about 230 migrants to France after Italy’s new right-wing government refused to take it in, while accepting three other charity vessels.

Furious at the conduct of Rome’s authorities, the French government retaliated by saying it would no longer take in 3,000 migrants already in Italy under a voluntary European burden-sharing deal.

SOS Mediterranee said that operational bills for the Ocean Viking have escalated since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with fuel charges alone running at more than 1 million euros ($1.06 million).

“Our financial situation is very difficult at the end of 2022, but we are not giving up,” SOS Mediterranee executive director Sophie Beau said.

SOS Mediterranee was established in 2015, and has offices in France, Italy and Switzerland.

Under Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s new government, installed in October, Italy has taken a very critical stance towards migrant rescue NGOs, accusing them of facilitating the work of people traffickers.

($1 = 0.9416 euros)

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