Italy has refused to allow a commercial vessel flying an Italian flag to bring ashore rescued migrants.
The EU member state is sticking to a hard-line policy on new arrivals as it presses European allies to share the burden of hosting an influx of displaced people.
A commercial ship that supplies oil platforms off the coast of Libya pulled 66 migrants to safety on Monday, but it was told not to bring them to Italy, an Interior Ministry source said.
Transport Minister, Danilo Toninelli, who oversees the coast guard and the country’s ports, said the migrants had been transferred to an Italian coast guard vessel on Tuesday after some of them threatened the lives of the Italian crew.
They will be brought to Italy, one source said, though the interior ministry source would not confirm.
The commercial ship picked up the migrants though it had been told Libyan patrol boats were coming to retrieve them, the interior ministry source said.
“The Libyan ports are more than safe and as minister I can guarantee you that the good times are over for the traffickers,” Salvini said during a visit to a camp for migrant fruit and vegetable pickers in the southern region of Calabria.
The move comes two days before a meeting of European interior ministers in the Austrian city of Innsbruck, where German Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, wants his far-right Italian counterpart, Matteo Salvini, to agree to take back migrants who arrive at its borders from Italy.
“What is certain is that for Italy there is no plan to take back who has gone abroad. It’s the last thing that could happen,” Salvini said in an interview with Il Messaggero newspaper.
“If the Germans and the Austrians are thinking only about sending migrants back to us, helping us close the external borders first would be a step forward,” he said.