20:55 GMT18 January 2021
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    The official insists that “there is no controversy” in his remarks, and that he merely considers it unusual that some refugees refuse to attend language and vocational classes, and that the UNHCR “has an obligation to resettle them.”

    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."

    ​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.

    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!"

    ​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.


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    radicalisation, migrants, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Spain, Italy, Mediterranean Sea
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