Italy takes in NGO ship with 33 migrants aboard

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MILAN, Dec 9 (Reuters) – A charity-run rescue boat carrying 33 migrants was allowed to disembark on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa overnight into Friday, while two more NGO vessels with more than 500 migrants aboard remain at sea.

The Louise Michel rescue ship was allowed to dock because it was more exposed to strong winds, RAI public broadcaster reported. Italy’s interior ministry had no immediate comment.

Two other NGO ships, the Geo Barents and the Humanity 1, together carrying more than 500 onboard, were still waiting for disembarkation, with no indication whether they would be assigned a safe port.

On Wednesday, a baby was born onboard the Geo Barents boat and later flown to nearby Sicily.

SOS Humanity said that after three migrant rescues carried out in recent days and amid worsening weather conditions, 261 rescued people remained aboard the Humanity 1 vessel, including around 30 women, some of them pregnant, and over 90 minors, most of them unaccompanied.

In spite of help requests sent to both Italy and Malta during the rescue operations, “no coordination by the rescue coordination centres took place,” the NGO said in a statement.

The growing number of migrants stranded at sea risks leading to a new confrontation with Italy’s right-wing government, in a replay of last month’s drama also involving France.

In November, Rome took in three NGO vessels, but refused docking rights for a fourth one, forcing it to sail to France with around 230 people aboard.

The French government complained vehemently, and retaliated by saying it would no longer take in 3,000 migrants already in Italy under a voluntary European burden-sharing deal.

Reporting by Agnieszka Flak and Alvise Armellini, writing by Federico Maccioni, editing by Keith Weir

Photo: M.V. Louise Michel

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