Hundreds of migrants finally disembarked in Italy from two ships on Monday after other European Union countries agreed to accept more than half of them, ending a diplomatic standoff that had left them stuck at sea.
The remaining migrants aboard the Italian ship Monte Sperone and the British naval vessel Protector, which had picked up 450 asylum seekers from an overcrowded boat that left Libya on Friday, shuffled ashore at the Sicilian port of Pozzallo.
At least eight suspected people smugglers were driven away in police cars, while identification procedures were begun in the port for the other migrants.
"Firmness and consistency pays off," Salvini, who is leading a high-profile campaign to exclude humanitarian rescue ships from Italian ports, said late on Sunday.
"The next objective, to eradicate all the people-smuggling mafias, will be to re-accompany the immigrants back where they came from," said Salvini, who leads the right-wing League.
Salvini argues that European countries should find a way to block the migrants before they leave Africa or send boats with asylum seekers back to the ports where they came from, including to Libya's harbours.
Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister in the anti-establishment government that took office last month, insisted on Monday the rules must be changed to allow migrants to be returned to Libya and their asylum requests be processed there.
"The EU has to understand that this is the only way to get out of this tunnel," he told reporters in Moscow, where he went to watch Sunday's soccer World Cup final and meet Russian officials.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)