Italy to let migrant rescue ship dock for health checks: foreign minister

Italy will allow an NGO ship carrying 179 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean to dock so medics can carry out health checks, the country's foreign minister said Friday.

Antonio Tajani said that German NGO SOS Humanity's vessel Humanity 1 would head for Catania, Sicily, and "be able to stay in our territorial waters for the time necessary for us to examine all the emergencies on board".

"We will accept all those people, for example because they are minors, or because, according to what we know from the media, they are pregnant women or with young children, or people with fever", he told a press conference in Rome.

But he warned that "all those who do not meet these criteria will have to be removed from our territorial waters by the ship".

More than 1,000 migrants are currently aboard rescue boats trying to reach Europe, and Italy has faced mounting pressure to let humanitarian ships dock.

Germany sent a diplomatic note to Italy on Thursday asking its government to provide rapid help.

On Thursday

the group SOS Mediterranee said it had called on the governments of France, Greece and Spain to help find a port for 234 people it rescued while trying to reach Europe, after Italy and Malta failed to answer.

So far, the NGO said it had made 20 requests to dock without success.

France said on Friday however that it was ready to take in some women and children aboard the NGO's Ocean Viking vessel.

SOS Mediterranee's director Sophie Beau welcomed the announcement but warned "any further day of waiting could have serious consequences".