More than 500 migrants arrive in Italy as rescue ships dock

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Italy, which promised a hard line on immigration, welcomed more than 500 migrants on Sunday when two charity rescue ships were allowed to dock at ports in the south of the country after several days of bad weather at sea.

The Geo Barents ship, operated by the humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and which had 248 migrants on board, arrived in Salerno, in the southwestern region of Campania, MSF said.

On the other side of the country, the Humanity 1, another rescue ship run by the humanitarian organization SOS Humanity, docked in the port city of Bari after Italian authorities agreed to grant it permission.

The journey had been very hard and the ship had faced three-metre-high waves and strong winds, SOS Humanity said in a tweet, confirming its arrival with 261 people on board.

How to respond to requests for help from charity ships picking up migrants in the Mediterranean is a challenge for Italy’s new right-wing government headed by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Tensions with neighboring France flared last month after the French took over a ship that had been turned away by Italy.

Italian Interior Ministry sources said the decision to allow the two ships to dock was based on poor weather conditions and risks faced by people on board, rather than representing a policy change.

He accuses the charity boats of making it easier for economic migrants to reach Italy and of playing into the hands of people smugglers.

The ministry was working on new regulations to protect Italy’s borders and stop human smugglers, the sources said.

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A 14-year-old boy, travelling alone, had been flown from Geo Barents to Sicily after suffering acute abdominal pain, MSF said on Friday.

On Wednesday, a baby was born on the same ship and then flew with his mother and three siblings to Italy.

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