A Rome administrative court ruled on Wednesday that a Spanish rescue ship carrying 160 migrants should be allowed to enter Italian territorial waters in defiance of a ban imposed by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
The charity vessel Open Arms had appealed to the court to let it come to Italy, saying international maritime law meant it had a right to bring the migrants to safety.
Salvini said on Tuesday he would block both the Open Arms and another vessel operated by French charities, the Ocean Viking, from bringing to Italy more than 500 migrants they had picked up off Libya since last week.
In a written ruling, the Rome court said the Open Arms complaint "does not appear to be completely without legal basis". It added that the charity vessel clearly faced an "exceptionally serious" situation.
As such, it said, the boat should be allowed into Italian waters and receive "immediate assistance" for the "most needy rescued persons". However, the court ruling did not say whether the boat should be allowed to dock or the migrants disembark.
There was no immediate comment from Salvini, the leader of the far-right League party. Earlier this month he introduced a new law hiking fines for ships that enter Italian waters without authorisation to up to 1 million euros ($1.12 million).