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More than 500 refugees arrive in Italy as rescue ships dock

Italian Interior Ministry sources say the decision to allow the two ships to dock was based on bad weather and the risks faced by those on board.

Italy, which has promised a hard line on immigration, took in more than 500 refugees when two charity rescue ships were allowed to dock at ports in the south after several days at sea in bad weather.

The Geo Barents ship, operated by the charity Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) and which had 248 refugees on board, arrived in Salerno, in the southwestern region of Campania, on Sunday, MSF said.

On the other side of the country, the Humanity 1, another rescue ship run by the charity SOS Humanity, docked in the port city of Bari after Italian authorities agreed to grant it permission.

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The journey was extremely rough and the ship faced 3-meter (10-foot) waves and strong winds, SOS Humanity said in a tweet, confirming its arrival with 261 refugees on board.

How to respond to requests for help from charity boats picking up migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean is a challenge for Italy’s new right-wing government led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Policy change?

Tensions with neighboring France flared last month after the French seized a ship that had been turned away by Italy.

Italian Interior Ministry sources said the decision to allow the two ships to dock was based on bad weather conditions and the risks faced by people on board, rather than representing a change in policy.

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He accuses charity ships of making it easier for cheap migrants to reach Italy and playing the game of human traffickers.

The ministry was working on new regulations to protect Italy’s borders and stop people smugglers, the sources said.

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A 14-year-old boy, traveling alone, was airlifted from Geo Barents to Sicily after suffering from acute abdominal pain, MSF said on Friday.

On Wednesday, a baby boy was born on the same ship and then flew with his mother and three siblings to Italy.

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