Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salveni has refused to take any of the migrants stranded on two German ships in Mediterranean waters after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has hinted at the possibility of receiving women and children as "exceptions".
"Instead of taking down other migrants or sending boats and planes to bring them, we are working to send back many of the human traffickers and terrorist smugglers back to their countries," Salvini said in a tweet through his official Twitter account on Wednesday morning.
Salvini added in the tweet a link to news of the prosecutor's investigation in Palermo, Sicily, of the organization of "ghost boats" to transport clandestine immigrants and smuggle tobacco from Tunisia to Italy.
Local authorities issued overnight arrest warrants against eight people, while the group's leader, a Tunisian national, is still on the run and is also accused of inciting terrorist attacks via Facebook posts.
The fate of 49 migrants rescued off the coast of Libya has divided the Italian coalition government after Italy's Deputy PM, refused to welcome the two rescue ships carrying the migrants.
This is not the first time that Italy has refused to receive migrants rescued in the Mediterranean. Rome has already refused to take between two thousand and three thousand migrants on its shores since Salvini began a campaign aimed at reducing immigration days after taking office last July.