Second rescue boat heading to Lampedusa in potential new stand-off with Rome

A rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) of the German NGO Sea-Eye migrant rescue ship 'Alan Kurdi' carries migrants claiming to be Tunisians, after rescuing them in the central Mediterranean Sea, August 31, 2019. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

A second migrant rescue boat is heading towards the south Italian island of Lampedusa, potentially creating another stand-off with Italian authorities who are banning non-governmental organizations from bringing migrants ashore.

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Italy’s outgoing interior minister Matteo Salvini has imposed a closed port policy in the last year to stem illegal immigration from North Africa, calling for other European countries to share responsibility for refugees’ shelter.

The Alan Kurdi boat, operated by the German Sea-eye NGO, will remain outside Italian territorial waters and is still waiting for instructions, a Reuters witness on board said on Saturday. The boat is named for a three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean four years ago.

Rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIB) of the German NGO Sea-Eye migrant rescue ship ‘Alan Kurdi’ rescue migrants claiming to be Tunisians from a small wooden boat in the central Mediterranean Sea, August 31, 2019. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Earlier on Saturday, the boat rescued 13 migrants from a small wooden craft in the Mediterranean, 34 nautical miles southwest of Lampedusa. The migrants, all young men in good health, said they were from Tunisia.

Another boat, The Mare Jonio, operated by Italian charity Mediterranea Saving Humans, is currently stuck off Lampedusa shores with 34 migrants on board.

Earlier this week Rome agreed to allow women, children and sick people on board of the Mare Jonio to disembark through a transfer operated by coastguards but refused to lift its ban on the ship entering Italian waters.