Italy: Rescue boat with 82 migrants can dock at Italian isle

A man looks at the horizon from the Ocean Viking in Mediterranean Sea, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. The humanitarian rescue ship operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders, has requested Italian and Maltese authorities for the medical evacuation of a pregnant woman and a place of safety for the other 83 rescued migrants. (AP Photo/Renata Brito)
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ABOARD THE OCEAN VIKING (AP) — A charity rescue ship with 82 migrants aboard said Saturday it has received permission to sail to a tiny southern Italian island, in a possible sign Italy's hard line against such vessels might be easing somewhat under the new government.

Ocean Viking's crew said Italian authorities instructed the ship to sail to Lampedusa.

The ship, which had appealed for days for a port of safety, is operated by two humanitarian groups, Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee.

The previous government, under a rigid anti-migrant policy led by right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, banned charity rescue boats from entering Italy's waters and disembarking migrants on Italy's shores.

Premier Giuseppe Conte's week-old coalition now contains the center-left Democrats, whose leaders have called for a more humane policy on the rescue boats.

Italy's current and previous governments have insisted on more solidarity from fellow European Union nations, saying the migrants set out on their journeys seeking asylum or better economic conditions in Europe as a whole, not necessarily Italy.

Germany's interior minister said in a report published on Saturday his country is prepared to take in a quarter of migrants rescued off the Italian coast as the European Union tries to find a solution to repeated standoffs involving humanitarian groups' ships.

Germany and other EU countries have advocated finding at least an interim solution to the impasse over rescues in the Mediterranean Sea, ahead of a meeting of the bloc's interior ministers Sept. 23 in Malta.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer was quoted as telling Saturday's edition of German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung that talks are still ongoing "but if everything remains as discussed, we can take 25% of the people rescued from distress at sea who turn up off Italy."

He said that, in practice, Germany has already taken in around that proportion to date.

Italian state TV on Friday said France is considering a similar arrangement.

"We know that EU governments are trying for an accord, but in the meantime please let us disembark," Doctors Without Borders tweeted earlier on Saturday.

It also tweeted "we're relieved" that they were cleared to sail to Lampedusa.

Fifty of those aboard were rescued on Sept. 8 from a flimsy rubber dinghy launched from Libya by human traffickers. Thirty-four other migrants were rescued the next day in the Mediterranean. A woman about to give birth and her husband were taken to Malta earlier in the week.

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Frances D'Emilio in Rome and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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