Italy disembarks some migrants from rescue ship Mare Jonio but won't lift ban

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MILAN (Reuters) - Italian coastguards have transferred women and children from a rescue boat to the island of Lampedusa but 34 other migrants remain on board, the charity operating the vessel said, as Italy maintains its ban on migrant ships docking at its ports.

The Mare Jonio, operated by Italian charity Mediterranea Saving Humans, picked up around 100 migrants adrift off Libya in a rubber dinghy on Wednesday.

The castaways included 22 children under the age of 10 and 26 women, at least eight of whom were pregnant.

On Thursday the Italian government agreed to allow women, children and sick people on board to disembark but refused to lift its ban on the ship entering Italian waters.

“The ban... remains in place for a ship that does not respect laws and intentionally provokes a state of necessity on board so as to be able to disembark in Italy,” a source close to the Italian Interior Ministry said.

On its web page, Mediterranea called on Italy to allow the other migrants on board the ship, as well as the crew, to disembark since the situation remained unsafe.

In the last year Italy has run a closed ports policy to try and stem illegal immigration from North Africa.

Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Gareth Jones