An Italian humanitarian group, barred from docking in Lampedusa, said on Friday it had refused to bring 54 migrants rescued at sea to Malta because of the distance and psychological conditions of those on board of its ship.

Mediterranea Saving Humans tweeted that its ship was off Italy’s southernmost island of Lampedusa, just outside Italian territorial waters. It has been banned from entering waters under Italian jurisdiction by ministerial decree. The migrants were rescued from a rubber dinghy Thursday off Libya, AP reported.

The NGO described the decree as illegitimate because it can’t be applied to a ship carrying people rescued at sea, and because Italy can’t ban an Italian-flagged ship from entering its waters.

Malta says it will take the migrants in a deal with Italy to take an equal number already in Malta. The deal, announced by Malta late Thursday, appears to be aimed at avoiding what would be the 21st stand-off since Italy’s government began refusing port access to humanitarian groups rescuing migrants at sea.

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