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German rescue ship docks in Italy with 88 migrants as EU nations strike relocation deal

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A rubber dinghy carrying migrants rescued by German NGO Sea-Eye ship Alan Kurdi is pictured at sea in the Mediterranean, October 26, 2019. Picture taken October 26, 2019.
A rubber dinghy carrying migrants rescued by German NGO Sea-Eye ship Alan Kurdi is pictured at sea in the Mediterranean, October 26, 2019. Picture taken October 26, 2019. -
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Karsten Jager/Sea-Eye/Handout via REUTERS
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After a week stranded at seas with 88 migrants onboard, German rescue ship Alan Kurdi docked in the Italian port of Taranto on Sunday, following a deal among EU nations.

Italy granted permission for migrants to disembark on Friday after Germany and other EU countries agreed to take in the migrants.

"Germany and France will take in 60 migrants, Portugal 5 and Ireland 2," the Interior Ministry said.

"We are extremely relieved to finally bring the remaining 88 exhausted and traumatised rescued persons to a safe port soon," said German NGO Sea-Eye, which operates the ship.

The ship had entered Italian territorial waters on Friday morning, indicating that it was likely to run out of food and that the situation "was getting tense onboard," according to its captain Barbel Beuse.

Earlier this week, French charity rescue ship Ocean Viking was allowed disembark 104 migrants to Sicily after France and Germany had agreed to take in 70 of the migrants.

Malta also accepted to take in 15 asylum seekers rescued this week on a drifting canoe by the Spanish ship Open Arms.

In September, a dozen EU countries adopted a distribution mechanism for asylum seekers aimed at relieving the pressure on southern EU states. But the mechanism remains provisional and applied on a voluntary basis.

League leader Matteo Salvini, who was Italy’s interior minister for 14 months up until August, had closed Italian ports to charity ships, leaving boats stranded in the Mediterranean for many days awaiting authorization to dock.

Salvini denounced Tuesday’s decision to let the Ocean Viking come to port. “Once again the Italian government has dropped its trousers. Once again it is doing a favour to an NGO ... which encourages human traffickers to ply their trade,” he said.

The League’s decision to quit the coalition opened the door for the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) to enter government. The PD has pushed for a more moderate immigration policy and has looked to Europe to help share the strain.

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