A boat carrying migrants rescued in the Mediterranean has reached the Italian island of Lampedusa, despite Italy’s warnings that it should stay out of its territorial waters.
The boat’s captain said law enforcement officers had boarded it. She said that the migrants were “desperate”.
“I know this is risky, but [the migrants] are exhausted. I will bring them to safety,” Carola Rackete said.
But Deputy PM Matteo Salvini said they would not be permitted to disembark.
“They are not allowed to dock, I am ready to send the police.”
He also said he had lodged a diplomatic protest with the Netherlands, as the ship is registered there.
The vessel, the Sea-Watch 3, had spent 14 days sailing back and forth off the coast of Italy’s southernmost island.
Italian authorities earlier warned that they would impose heavy fines or impound the ship.
The head of German-based charity Sea-Watch, Johannes Bayer, said Capt Rackete had had no choice but to head for Lampedusa after rescuing dozens of people from a “rubber boat” on 12 June.
“We enter Italian waters as there are no other options left to ensure the safety of our guests, whose basic rights have been violated for long enough,” he said.
The charity accuses European institutions of not fulfilling their responsibilities to safeguard people rescued at sea.
In January, the Sea-Watch 3 spent almost two weeks in limbo after rescuing migrants from the Mediterranean Sea before it was eventually allowed to dock in the southern Italian island of Sicily.
It was granted permission after six countries – France, Germany, Malta, Portugal, Romania and Luxembourg – agreed to take the migrants in.
The boat’s crew later said they felt as though they had been “held hostage”.
In recent weeks, more than 400 migrants travelling on small boats have arrived in Italy, AFP news agency reports.
Italy migrants: Rescue ship reaches Lampedusa despite warnings