France denounced as "unacceptable" Italy's refusal to allow a migrant ship to dock, as the two countries argued over where the ship with 234 people on it should land
The row centres on the Ocean Viking, a ship carrying the refugees, which has sailed from Sicilian waters towards France after unsuccessfully waiting for permission to dock in Italy since late October.
Run by European charity SOS Méditerranée under a Norwegian flag, the ship appealed to France to let it dock and was expected to be close to Corsica on Thursday.
"Facing the silence of Italy and the exceptionality of the situation, the Ocean Viking has now escalated her request for a place of safety in France," SOS Méditerranée explained.
A diplomatic row over its fate was gathering steam on Tuesday after Italy's new right-wing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni thanked France for opening a port to the Ocean Viking - in anticipation of any confirmation, or denial, by France.
On Wednesday French government spokesman Olivier Véran branded Italy's refusal to allow the ship to dock as "unacceptable".
He added: "The ship is currently in Italian territorial waters, there are extremely clear European rules that were accepted by the Italians."
Italy's new far-right government, led by Meloni's Brothers of Italy party, has vowed to stop the tens of thousands of migrants who arrive on the country's shores each year.
500 migrants rescued last month
SOS Mediterranee said the choice of which migrants to allow onto Italian soil was "selective and discriminatory".
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