A charity ship carrying hundreds of people rescued in the Mediterranean said on Tuesday it had received permission to dock in Italy as European governments tried to agree where the migrants should go.
The relocation of rescued migrants is a contentious issue for the European Union, with the influx of newcomers fuelling the rise of anti-immigrant parties in states including Italy.
An Italian interior ministry source said Germany and France would take in some of the 403 migrants aboard the Ocean Viking ship, run by the French NGO SOS Méditerranée, with Ireland and Luxembourg also expected to offer help.
SOS Méditerranée said it had been told to take those rescued, including 38 women and 149 minors, to Taranto in the heel of Italy.
Two more rescue ships carrying some 230 people were also waiting to be assigned a safe port either in Italy or Malta.
Matteo Salvini, the head of Italy’s rightist League party, condemned the decision to let the Ocean Viking come to Italy.
“The number of (migrant) arrivals has risen 500% in January 2020. Madness!!!” he posted on Twitter. “Those who are allowing this to happen are accomplices.”
Italy’s interior ministry says some 870 boat migrants have come to the country this month, after 155 in the same period last year. This does not include those on the Ocean Viking.
Migrants departures from Libya have jumped in recent days following fighting there.
In September, interior ministers from five EU countries agreed a new scheme to distribute rescued migrants to try to relieve pressure on southern states including Italy.
Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese has established better relations with European partners and charity organizations than her predecessor, Salvini.
Interior ministry data published last December said other EU countries were offering to take some 80% of migrants who qualified for relocation.