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Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini Italy on Saturday gave permission for 10 migrants to leave the German Sea-Watch 3 rescue boat, following

Among the 10 were two pregnant women, three minors and two sick men. The group was allowed to disembark on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, which lies between the Italian mainland and the north African coast.

The Sea-Watch 3 rescued more than 50 migrants drifting in an inflatable dinghy off the coast of Libya on Wednesday, but Italy’s populist government did not allow the ship to enter an Italian port.

Earlier on Saturday, the Italian coast guard had conducted a medical check on board, according to Sea-Watch spokesman Ruben Neugebauer.

The boat is currently waiting at sea near the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Several German cities had offered on Friday to take in the migrants, but it is the federal government in Berlin that decides in such matters.

Salvini signs decree banning ship

On Thursday, Salvini, who is also the leader of the far-right League party, ordered Italian law enforcement to prevent the boat from entering Italian waters.

Earlier in the week, his government adopted a decree that would force non-governmental organizations to pay between €10,000 and €50,000 ($11,327 – $56,638) for transporting rescued migrants to Italian ports.

Salvini’s popularity has risen over the last year after taking a hard line against migrants, which has included closing ports to rescue vessels.

On Saturday, he announced on Twitter that he had signed a decree banning the Sea-Watch 3 from entering Italy.

“I have just signed a ban on the entry, transit and berthing of Sea-Watch 3 in Italian territorial waters, as provided for by the Security Decree,” he wrote.

The decree still has to go before Italy’s parliament, where the coalition government holds the majority.

Salvini has said asylum-seekers sailing from Libya to seek safety in Europe should be returned — an order that is contentious under international law.

Sea-Watch has repeatedly said it would not land survivors in Libya as it did not consider Tripoli a port of safety.

Southern EU states call for ‘burden sharing’

Following a summit, Southern European leaders on Friday called for a fair distribution of migrants arriving from across the Mediterranean Sea as the latest NGO boat carrying rescued families was denied a safe port by Italy.

The leaders of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain said the European Union should “guarantee effective implementation of the principle of solidarity and fair burden-sharing between member states.”

More than 12,000 people have died since 2014 trying to flee Libya to Europe via what the UN refugee agency calls the “world’s deadliest sea crossing”.

law/sms (AFP, dpa)

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