Italy on Thursday offered to evacuate women, children and sick people from a charity vessel stranded at sea with 99 migrants on board.
The Mare Jonio vessel, operated by Italian aid group Mediterranea, is located just off Italian territorial waters near the island of Lampedusa.
“Like always in the past, women, children and sick people will be able to get off the Mare Jonio,” a source from the Italian Interior Ministry said.
“The ban on entry and disembarkation remains for the ship,” the source added, accusing the Mare Jonio of violating Italian laws and creating an emergency aboard to call for the migrants’ urgent disembarkation.
Mediterranea rescued the migrants on Wednesday some 130 kilometres north of the Libyan port of Misrata.
It said there were 26 women, including eight pregnant ones, and 22 children aged below 10 among them.
Earlier Thursday, the charity said the Mare Jonio had asked the Italian coastguard permission to get close to Lampedusa’s shore to seek protection from rough seas.
“Right now there are waves of more than two metres which are making life aboard the #MareJonio very difficult.
Many rescuees are feeling sick,” it tweeted.
However, the vessel was intercepted by the Italian coastguard 24 kilometres off Lampedusa, at the edge of Italian territorial waters, and told not to proceed further.
The coastguard executed an order from Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, a migration hardliner, banning the Mare Jonio from national waters.