Vincent Cochetel, the UNHCR's special envoy for the Central Mediterranean, has become the focus of media attention after expressing his opinion about the plight of the Open Arms migrant rescue ship.
Commenting on earlier reports about the ship rejecting Spain’s offer to allow it to dock at Mallorca to let the migrants disembark there, Cochetel expressed concern about the alleged "radicalisation of the migratory dreams and demands of some migrants and refugees in Libya and neighbouring countries."
Open Arms rejects Spanish offer of safe haven https://t.co/MZs8ok9NpB. While I understand the difficulty of the situation on board, I am very concerned by the radicalisation of the migratory dreams & demands of some migrants & refugees in Libya & neighbouring countries— vincent cochetel (@cochetel) 18 августа 2019 г.
The official delivered his remark shortly before the ship docked at the Italian island of Lampedusa after the Prosecutor's Office of Agrigento ordered the immediate disembarkation of all people on board Open Arms at the port of Lampedusa and the temporary detention of the vessel.
Cochetel's tweet divided opinion on social media.
Paying migrants have been encouraged to take the sea route by open border supporters, then facilitated in demanding what port they wish to be dropped at. Would you call that reasonable?— Caroline Frampton (@Caro50886110) 19 августа 2019 г.
As a white person do I have the right to demand the Japanese give me residency in Japan and an agreement to change their culture so I feel at home?— W H I T E W E L L B E I N G (@sakkoira) 21 августа 2019 г.
I think you making a valid point. Speaking to migrants/refugees, often their dreams, at times demands, of which country to end up are farstretching. Of course all lifes must be saved, nobody should ever drown in the Med. We need a moderate discourse between all & find a solution.— Jessica E Gerken (@jessgerken) 19 августа 2019 г.
On the contrary lots of people are very concerned by the radicalisation of the European Governments and their attitude to deny rescue & assistance to migrants crossing the Mediterranean.— mazzetta (@mazzettam) 18 августа 2019 г.
And while Euronews argued that Cochetel’s comments "sparked controversy", the official promptly responded that "it is just abnormal that some refugees refuse to attend language & vocational training classes, job placement in some countries because they claim that they only want to go to EU & that the UNHCR has an obligation to resettle them!"
There is no controversy, it is just abnormal that some refugees refuse to attend language & vocational training classes, job placement in some countries because they claim that they only want to go to EU & that UNHCR has an obligation to resettle them! https://t.co/xp6lQhOTNK— vincent cochetel (@cochetel) 22 августа 2019 г.
Nearly 20 days ago, the Open Arms ship rescued migrants from the Mediterranean Sea, one of the most popular but dangerous migration routes to Europe, but the Italian authorities were reluctant to let it dock.
Last week, an Italian court ruled to allow Open Arms to enter national waters. At the time, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini threatened to fine charities rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean up to $1.1 million and to confiscate their ships.