Italy demanded on Saturday that the Netherlands recall two NGO-operated migrant transport ships flying the Dutch flag, after Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini warned that they would not be allowed to dock in Italian ports.
The ships are currently sitting off the coast of Libya.
“They should know that Italy no longer wants to be an accomplice in the business of illegal immigration and therefore they will have to aim for other, non-Italian, ports,” Salvini said in a Friday post on Facebook.
The blocked NGO ships come on the heels of Italy's refusal to take in a boat full of 629 shipwrecked migrants picked up off the coast of Libya - a move ushered in by the Italian government's new populist coalition headed by Salvini.
"We are finished being doormats," tweeted Salvini on Sunday.
After Salvini's comments, one of the Dutch-flagged NGOs, Mission Lifeline, tweeted in German "When fascists promote us..." to which Salvini fired back over Twitter "insults and threats will not stop us."
La nave Ong Lifeline commenta: “Quando i fascisti ci fanno pubblicità...”.
Roba da matti.
A casa nostra comandiamo noi, la pacchia è STRA-FINITA, chiaro?
Insulti e minacce non ci fermano.
Se voi mi aiutate, io non mollo! #chiudiamoiporti pic.twitter.com/w5ZI1H5nYa
“The issue of migrants is epic and Europe has remained detached for years about it, having inappropriate procedures in place before this issue became so severe,” Italy Foreign Affairs Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said, according to interview in Corriere della Sera.
On Saturday, France agreed to accept some of the 629 migrants from 26 countries rescued by the MV Aquarius following an international spat between French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian authorities which led to Spain agreeing to take them in.
After Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refused to accept the NGO vessel packed with shipwrecked immigrants, Macron said that Italy was "playing politics" with the migrants, and that the Italian government had displayed "cynicism and irresponsibility."
Mr Macron's spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said the French president recalled that "in cases of distress, those with the nearest coastline have a responsibility to respond".
"There is a degree of cynicism and irresponsibility in the Italian government's behaviour," he quoted President Macron as saying. -BBC
Rome wasn't having any of Macron's rhetoric - as Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte shot back - accusing Macron of being hypocritical, cynical and rigid.
"The statements around the Aquarius affair that come from France are surprising and show a serious lack of knowledge about what is really happening. Italy can not accept hypocritical lessons from countries that have always preferred to turn their backs when it...